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
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)