Sunday, July 26, 2009

Orphan (2009)

Fear 3/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5

I almost passed on this and figured if anything, Orphan would be a rental. The creepy kid schtick has, quite frankly, worn out its welcome with me. But I couldn't help but buy into the hype machine that's been building for this film over the last couple of weeks. No, I'm not talking about the crazy peeps that have been getting all in a tizzy over the marketing of the film and it being construed as negative towards the adoptive process. What I'm talking about is the early reviews giving high praise and making me curious as hell to find out just what Esther's secret is.

Orphan starts off with a bang with a husband and his pregnant wife arriving at a hospital. She's starting to have labor pains and as she's carted off by wheelchair, blood starts spewing from her hoo-ha. She's taken into the ER where more blood starts gushing. The doctor delivers the baby, and its presented to mom and dad as a bloody stillborn. The wife then bolts straight up out of bed as she wakes up, finding it only to be a bad dream.

We quickly learn that the baby she dreamed of died before childbirth due to mommy's constant hitting of the bottle. She's lived with the guilt and along with her husband, they've been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. They have two other kids (a deaf younger daughter and her older brother) who have also felt the affects of mommy's disease. Despite this, you feel as though they are a family that have come through the worst of things, putting themselves back together. As such, they are exploring the possibility of adoption and head out to a girl's orphanage to take a pick of the litter. The husband stumbles upon a girl sitting by herself in a classroom, painting away and singing. He instantly falls in love with the girl and as his wife enters the room, it becomes apparent that this little girl has a way of casting a spell.

So the husband and wife decide to take her home with them and she's instantly met with resistance by their older son. Just as quickly, she bonds with the younger daughter, learning sign language and charming the pants off of her. They soon become friends and totally inseparable, even to the point where the younger daughter sacrifices her own sense of right and wrong to protect her.

After a few days at school, it becomes more and more obvious that something is just not right with Esther (nevermind the fact that she wears Victorian style clothes everyday which is entirely creepy altogether). She flips out at school when the class bully smacks what looks like a bible out of her hand and one day at the playground, she exacts her revenge, pushing her off the top of a slide, causing her to fall and break her ankle. The coup de gras comes when the nun at the orphanage shows up at the house. She's concerned and believes a mistake has been made and that something may be terribly wrong with Esther. You see, the orphanage which she supposedly came from in Russia, has never heard of her. The father thinks nothing of it and finds that everything that has happened up to this point to be completely circumstantial. As the nun leaves, Esther along with the younger daughter as an accomplice, cause her car to careen off the road when Esther pushes the daughter into the middle. When the nun exits the vehicle to check on the deaf daugher, Esther proceeds to bludgeon the heck out of her with a hammer she took from the house. As they drag the unconscious nun off to the side of the road, she starts to come to and Esther repeatedly bashes her head in (in front of the little girl no less) to finish her off. Absolutely brutal.

Despite the strong case his wife builds, the husband remains in complete denial, thinking that she is going cuckoo. He also starts to think that maybe she's hitting the bottle again. After we find out that the original orphanage has never heard of her, tension begins to mount as it becomes apparent that Esther is plotting something, starting with the setting of the older brother's treehouse on fire with him trapped inside.

And what exactly is Esther's secret? I'm not giving it away, silly. However, its easily one of the most original plot twists I've ever seen and you don't see it coming at all. Not for a single minute. This movie is altogether brutal, relentless, tense and at times, funny. Not in a Sam Raimi goofy way but wit is dispensed at just the right time to make this an altogether satisfying movie watching experience. I was rolling when Esther threatened to hack off the son's little willy. The acting is also incredibly stellar all around.

Definitely watch this at a theater and moan, groan, laugh and cringe right along with the spectators. I know I did. Just when I thought the well had run dry on mainstream horror, a film like Orphan comes and smacks me upside the head. Apparently the guy who directed this also helmed the House of Wax remake that Complaint Dept. swears by. I swore to never watch it but now I think I just might. This movie is brilliant.

Cortez the Killer

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