Review by Jack Foley
SPANISH director Jaume Collet-Serra’s Orphan is a rare Hollywood horror that doesn’t completely insult the intelligence of its viewers.
It’s contrived in places and struggles to justify a running time that’s just over two hours, but it’s an effectively creepy little shocker that boasts a genuinely surprising twist.
The film follows the fortunes of grieving ex-alcoholic Kate (Vera Farmiga) and her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) as they decide to adopt nine-year-old Russian girl Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) some time after the losing their unborn third child.
At first won over by Esther’s individuality and sensitivity, the couple begin to get suspicious following a strange number of coincidences surrounding their new little girl. Could it be that Esther has a sinister streak?
By the time she’s finished manipulating, wounding and murdering anyone who gets in her path, viewers will have little doubt that creepy Esther was a risk not worth taking for the hapless couple – but why?
Collet-Sera’s film has fun building towards the big reveal, both toying with expectation and offering a fair few surprises.
His direction maintains a consistent air of suspense, and is knowing in all the right places – it’ll push audience buttons in spite of any misgivings they have about certain directions the story takes.
Performance-wise, Farmiga and Sarsgaard convince as the married couple whose past indiscretions provide plenty of fodder for Esther to play with, while newcomer Fuhrman is genuinely creepy as the murderous young girl.
The violence is shocking but kept in moderation, even though an opening birthing scene is enough to give expectant mothers nightmares for weeks to come!
And the jumps, while occasionally signposted, will play to the popcorn crowd’s sense of expectation.
It’s fun and unsettling and has a strong grasp of the genre it’s working within – which, despite some obvious flaws, is more than can be said for the majority of horror films being churned out by the big studios nowadays.
Running time: 2hrs 3mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 30, 2009