Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Premise: A couple (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) adopts a Russian-born orphan (Isabelle Fuhrman) but they soon begin to suspect that something is wrong as accidents and other incidents accumulate.
What Works: Orphan is a very well made film. The sound design is superb and the cinematography and editing are extremely well done. There are some striking images, some of which are very uncomfortable to watch, that are unique to this film. Unlike a lot of the splatter and torture films that have filled the horror genre lately, Orphan is able to create and maintain an atmosphere of dread and the first act of the story sets up characters who are interesting and empathetic. Horror is not a genre well regarded for acting, but this film has several performances that really stand out: Vera Farmiga plays the adoptive mother whose sanity is pushed to the edge and Farmiga strikes a delicate balance between making her character vulnerable and keeping her a credible heroine. Also outstanding is Isabelle Fuhrman as the adopted girl. Playing a psychopath and getting it right is tough for actors of any age and this particular role requires the actress to penetrate into some very dark and taboo areas, but Fuhrman nails it and her character is extremely frightening.
What Doesn’t: Parts of Orphan submit to thriller and slasher clichés either in scare gags that have been done before or in dialogue or plot beats that are familiar. What is cliché is well done but those who have seen The Bad Seed, The Omen, or The Good Son may anticipate where this story is going.
Bottom Line: Orphan is a very good horror film. While it is not entirely original, it is a solid thriller and accomplishes its goal to frighten and horrify.
Episode: #249 (August 2, 2009)