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Horror Whore: Orphan

July 28, 2009
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Keeping America convinced that orphans bring nothing but trouble……

*Warning, this story contains spoilers*

orphanOh the things that people choose to get up on their high horses over, and by things I mean films.  When I first saw the trailer for Jaume Collet-Serra’s new horror flick, Orphan, my first response was “that’ll teach people to stop adopting creepy foundlings into their homes”.  Various children’s advocacy groups agree and have started a grassroots campaign asking that Warner Bros. add a positive, pro-orphan message following the film (presumably on the DVD) and to “contribute a portion of those profits to aid orphans across America and around the world.” Christian Alliance for Orphans President Jedd Medefind said of the film,

“It (Orphan) seems to suggest that orphans are damaged goods and that adoption could destroy your life. With all the challenges they already face, orphans deserve better. Other people deserve better as well. We need truer stories.”

Although I agree that orphans might be the one last under-represented and voiceless group, ignoring works such as Batman, the six Harry Potter movies, Annie, Anne of Green Gables, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist or really any animated movie or movie based on a Dickens’s novel, I hardly think that audience of Orphan leave the theatre convinced that what they just viewed had any basis in reality. (On a side note, since when did the term “orphan” fall out of fashion? Having just used it more in the last two paragraphs than ever before in my life, I feel like I’ve been slinging around some horrible non-politically correct term.)

The acting in this orphan-hating thriller is generally good. Vera Farmiga, who played the love interest to both Leo and Matt D in The Departed, is especially good as the guilt-ridden, struggling with sobriety, mom Kate Coleman. Real-life hearing impaired youngster, Aryana Engineer, cast as the deaf and mute youngest Coleman daughter, managed to convey volumes with her eyes or body language, making any suspenseful scenes with her in them all the more intense.  I was even impressed with the young lead, Isabelle Fuhrman’s portrayal. It’s not easy charming the audience AND terrifying them with calculated acts of violence, but somehow, she makes it work.

The points that stuck in my craw all came back to the screenplay or original story.  Two minutes into the movie I was immediately made queasy and uncomfortable by the weird abortion-like delivery of Kate’s baby in her nightmare. Besides just generally gross and awful to watch, it did nothing for the plot except show the obvious issues the character still had in regards to her own miscarriage, something which is explained in more detail later in the film, and pushing that first scene firmly into gratuitous-land.  The next major problems falls into the, to quote a fellow Orphan patron, “hell to the no!”  category, otherwise known as the “why are people in horror movies so stupid and/or oblivious?” category. First of all, what was that shrink, played by the always enjoyable character actress Margo Martindale, thinking when she told her client she was ready to adopt? And then went on to tell her that little sensitive Esther just needed some patience and love, while said sensitive child was shown trying to kick down a bathroom stall in a furious fit of rage.  Which brings me to the second point in my “hell to the no” section, why is the smarmy husband John, played by charming and generally likeable Peter Sarsgaard such a tool and a fool (yes that would make him a ftool)? He goes on believing that little Esther is as a innocent and sweet as the snow for WAY too long…when everyone can see she’s clearly not, just by the worrisome rumors of violence that surfaces around her… about… oh… TWO seconds after they bring her home. Not to mention the creepy wardrobe she has or the too-cute-to-be-trusted hairstyles.  And while I’m as much of a fan of the whole “underage-Russian-prostitute-look” as the next gal, the wardrobe change at the end combined with calling John “Daddy” just creeped me out for all the wrong reasons. And while we’re on the subject of Little Creep Peep’s wardrobe, did anyone else keep expecting Esther’s head to fall off, a la Alvin Schwartz’s classic ghost story, The Green Ribbon?

So, overall I enjoyed the acting and the production design elements (the creepy childish paintings shown in the movie are pure black light fun and the general set and costume design didn’t rub me the wrong way TOO much) and even got onboard despite the plot problems that seem unavoidable to horror films (stupid people making some pretty stupid mistakes).  And when all is said and done, I still found myself covering my eyes in the theater… which as any horror fan will tell you, is the sign of a good scary flick.

Frothygirlz rating 7/10

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5 Responses to “ Horror Whore: Orphan ”

  1. Sara on July 28, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Might I suggest ‘foob’ as a replacement for ftool? Delightful combination of fool & boob!

  2. Renee on July 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

    OHHHhhhh I like this “foob” word. Now is that “foob” like the word “food”, but with a “b” on the end? Or more like “fop” but with a “b”? I think I like it pronounced the second way.

  3. carol on July 30, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Which do I like more, the thorough review of “Orphan” or the witty, biting humor? Has to be the humor, I LOVE clever writing and this reviewer delivers! I appreciate the thorough review of the movie; it sounds like this flick is a good one to make the effort to see.

  4. Dayanna on July 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

    I am not a big fan of scary movies, but every once in a while theres one I like, this sounds like one I might like!

  5. mofro on August 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    nice review–and timely, since Vera Farmiga graces the cover of my most recent issue of mommy-mag “Cookie”. check it: http://www.cookiemag.com/magazine/toc/toc_contents

    I wonder if her cute, chubby munchkin knows about his mother’s more disturbed alter-ego?

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