Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay: David Leslie Johnson, from a story by Alex Mace
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Aryana Engineer
Running Time: 123 minutes
Genre: Horror, thriller, psychological
Summary: Recovering alcoholic Kate Coleman (Farmiga) and her husband John (Sarsgaard) find their already strained marriage stretched to breaking point after their third child is stillborn. They decide to adopt a nine year old Russian girl named Esther (Fuhrman) from a nearby orphanage. At first glance Esther, who is a talented painter, appears firendly and intelligent, if slightly strange.
At the Coleman household Esther is welcomed almost immediately by the Coleman's deaf-mute daughter Max (Engineer), but she is disliked by the older child, Daniel (Bennett), who immediately takes exception to Esther's mannerisms and eccentric taste in clothes.
Before long Esther begins to display increasingly violent and manipulative behaviour. However, as Kate becomes increasingly suspicious of her John refuses to believe that Esther is anything but misunderstood. As their relationship begins to disintegrate Kate becomes determined to uncover the secrets of Esther's past.
Opinions: This film belongs to the "evil child" sub-genre of horror (which includes The Bad Seed (1956), The Omen (1976) and The Good Son (1993) among many others) as well as the "cuckoo in the nest" sub-genre in which a family comes under attack from an enemy within.
The film is slow to get going and the final half hour gets ludicrously over the top, but mostly it is an impressively atmospheric slice of horror. Moving at a deliberate pace the film builds up it's characters and their relationships, allowing for a number of elements to be dealt with more subtly (such as John's infidelity and Kate's guilt over an accident involving Max). The film, which was shot near Montreal, also gets a lot of milage out of the wintery landscapes.
The performances all round are superb, with Isabelle Fuhrman delivering a standout performance as the murderous child, seemingly all sweetness and light, but with a cold, dead-eyed stare which makes The Omen's Damien look about as threatening as Dennis the Menace. Vera Farmiga also impresses as the increasingly suspicious mother.
It's a good and effective psychological chiller up until the last half hour or so when it all goes into slasher movie territory. Still, it is more than watchable and provides plenty of good chills, and is worth watching for the perfomances if nothing else.
Vera Farmiga and Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan