Orphan (2009)

“You’ll never guess what Esther’s secret is”. This is Orphan’s tagline, and it’s certainly true. Esther herself is brilliant – a very disturbed and disturbing young girl – but the film itself is a disgusting cliché and horribly disappointing.

Esther is a nine year old orphan, adopted by troubled couple Kate and John Coleman, and at first she seems charming and sweet, adored by both parents. Taken into the Coleman’s home as an equal to their teenage son and younger daughter, Esther initially seems to be oblivious to the torments and derision she receives at school because of her “Little Bo Peep” style and strange accent. Quickly, however, Kate and her children realise Esther is not a normal little girl at all and that her kookiness hides a much more demented, motive-driven psychosis that is both creepy and troubling. John, however, never sees Esther’s darker side, and the already visible cracks in the Coleman family’s internal relationships widen.

As Kate becomes more and more paranoid about the origins of the child they took into their home, Esther tries everything she can to remain in the family unit, using a concoction of manipulative paranoia and extreme violence to get her way.

Orphan has a solid back-bone throughout. Isabelle Fuhrman is superb as Esther – distracting, terrifying and utterly disturbing. Sadly the majority of the film seems to have been dipped in cliché soup and served with a massive ladle. Shower curtains, mirrors, fridge-doors, orchestral fits during moments of calm and mind-bogglingly stupid decisions – nearly every overdone horror technique is employed without irony or shame. It simply is tedious watching someone pull back a mirror only to find someone standing behind them. Bor-ing.

Orphan is also hampered by needless sub-plots involving Kate’s alcoholism and their deaf daughter, forcing it to be far too long, needlessly so, and stretches out the fear and intrigue until it breaks, making the final act a laughable, dull affair. Helmed by the director of House of Wax and Goal II: Living The Dream, Jaume Collet-Serra is still excusably fresh on the scene, but his film is tragically overblown and uninspiring.

Orphan is watchable simply for Fuhrman’s stunning performance and a couple of wince-inducing moments (especially one with a vice, which still claws at the mind even now), but overall it is a disappointment. Apparently you’ll never guess what Esther’s secret is. Perhaps the journey to revealing this particular secret is best left untraveled.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

2 Comments on “Orphan”

  1. Holly says:

    I went to see this, mainly coz I was craving salt popcorn, and at 9 o’clock the only thing on was Orphan. Will agree this review is spot on but would add that the last hour or so had me, my friend, and everyone else in the cinema laughing ourselves silly at the ridiculous twist!
    Would recommend a few beers before watching!

  2. Sarah Law says:

    Me and Matt totally guessed her secret, but only because he’d recently read an article about people with hypopituitarism.
    I didn’t hate Orphan but you’re competely right about it being very by-the-numbers. Every potential ‘jumpy’ bit was telegraphed from a mile away….

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