Sunday, August 2, 2009

Review - The Orphan

A married couple John and Kate, after a losing their baby in a tragic accident decide to adopt a new child. Hoping to bring some normacy to their lives they go to a local orphanage in search of a new family member. When John becomes drawn to a 9-year-old girl named Esther, the couple brings home the innocent girl welcoming her into their family. After a series of unexplainable events, Kate begins to think that Esther is not as sweet as she appears. Concerned for her family's protection, Kate urges John to reconsider keeping Esther. When Kate's efforts go unheeded by John, it quickly becomes apparent that it may already be too late for the family.

"The Orphan" had the right idea, just failed to make it work. The tone and mood were there, Isabelle Fuhrman was definately creepy as Esther, but the storytelling and character development are so bad they outweigh a solid set up. There are just too many things in the 123 minute horror film that take you out of the movie or force you to question what is unfolding.

House of Wax director Jaume Collet-Serra does his best to create a somber mood within the family after loosing a child. The performances early on also match this tone of meloncholy. Collet-Serra direction is also eerie from the start. He allows for the viewer to know something is a miss with Esther, it just becomes mind-numbing that the father is so blind as the film progresses. Peter Sarsgaard, who plays the father John Coleman, is so utterly oblivious with Esther's deviance it becomes a real nusence to watch. You really start getting to the point of wanting to scream at him like his wife, "don't you see...she's fucking crazy?"

Much like in films The Good Son or The Omen, "The Orphan" uses the child's innocence to disguise the evil agenda. No one believes that a child could possibly do any of things that have happened, and as a result the people who believe either end up looking crazy or worse dead. This plot device worked in the past, but here in "The Orphan" the events that transpire leave a clear path to Esther and not connecting the dots is absurd. It becomes hard to stay interested as everyone but Kate, played by Vera Farmiga, can't put two and two together.

Isabelle Fuhrman delivers a solid performance as Esther. She is insanely creepy. She pulls off the innocent angle flawlessly and most of all, she carries her scenes without a doubt. Nearly every scene Fuhrman is in, she can turn on and off her sweetness or rage instantly, which kept me at least engaged to see where her development went. Luckily, director Jaume Collet-Serra, uses Fuhrman's innocent and eerie vibe to provide a few vital jumps here and there.

Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga do not deliver horrible performances, but more so, their characters are just poorly written. The setup of their characters is solid, but watching as they spiral out of control was hard to sit through. "The Orphan," like other bad horror films, left me disgruntled by how asinine the characters and decisons were. Sarsgaard's clearly more than Farmiga, as stressed above, but even Farmiga's character had some real head-scratching moments.

Finally, "The Orphan" wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't very effective. It started off strong with a meloncholy mood matched with a frightening performance from Isabelle Fuhrman, but that quickly gets lost in terrible plot and character development that do nothing but pull the viewer out of the story. The third act is insanely convoluded and the big reveal isn't nearly as scary as it ought to have been. Lastly, "The Orphan" is best saved for a night when there is nothing else to watch and is not worth wasting a cinema visit.