Old 08-06-2009, 08:25 PM
Jaume Collet-Serra's Orphan

Orphan (2009)

Here's a movie that wants so bad to be like "The Omen" but fails in just about every aspect that the previous film succeeded in. "Orphan" comes complete with a creepy little girl that we, of course, learn early on is evil, so why doesn't anybody else notice this, or simply put two and two together? Well, because it's a horror movie that hinges on the necessity of everyone not knowing.

Early on, we meet the Colemans, Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard), as well as their son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), and daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer). We learn that Kate had a stillborn baby not too long ago and is about to make a trip with her husband to a home for girls where they will adopt a daughter. The one they choose is Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). She is a child that doesn't really fit in, but doesn't seem to mind. When they bring her home, she and Max quickly form a friendship while Daniel finds her too strange. Kate and John think they have made a great choice, that is, until strange things start happening, all of which seem to be revolving around Esther.

This is one of those horror movies where you could just check off the clichés as they occurred, which were impossible to miss and could be seen coming from a mile away. Even as the film starts, it immediately falls into the old cliché of a frightening situation that turns out to only be a dream. From here on, we pretty much know we're in for the same old horror movie that we've seen before, but not done nearly as well.

The clichés continue with the ole "someone’s standing behind you in the mirror" scare with the striking loud music, but, of course, it turns out to merely be a familiar face. Since "Orphan" pretty much relies on these tactics, the "scares" are far too obvious and are not effective. What they needed was a good dose of originality, not dependence on too oft-used scare tactics.

I'm not sure if this would fall into the category of clichés, but one thing that seems common, and something this movie seems to have plenty of, is really, really dumb characters. I don't necessarily mean dumb as in mentally retarded (though that would explain a lot), but more so the fact that characters can't seem to figure out what is going on around them, even when it's incredibly obvious.

The best demonstration of this comes when the nun, Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), from the orphanage suddenly comes to the Colemans' house telling them that Esther has been present at several strange incidents including the arson of a building. It seems very unbelievable that nobody would have put this together until now and that there wasn't much of an investigation into the sudden death of this nun (who was killed by Esther), though nobody even thinks about that possibility even after the nun had just finished explaining Esther's possible involvement in several incidents.

Then take the examples of the kids, who know exactly how evil Esther is, but won't tell anyone anything due to being scared of Esther's wrath. Obviously the kids and mother don't communicate much as they both know the exact same thing, but even when the mother asks them very specifically about Esther, they don't tell her anything. This is immediately followed by another incident that casts more doubt on her, yet nobody does anything about it. Even when Kate knows for a fact that it is Esther, as is shown in a particularly bad scene between the two characters, she does nothing to stop her, which you would think her duty as a mother would automatically have her do.

But the dumbest character in the entire film is easily John Coleman, who was never willing to listen to his wife, despite the nun's warnings, and was immediately willing to have Kate put in rehab because he found an unopened bottle of wine (she supposedly had a drinking problem that had led to the near drowning of one of her kids a few years earlier that she is now dealing with).

Even when John is faced with overwhelming evidence, he still doesn't believe that Esther could be doing these things, so what does he do? After Daniel ends up in the hospital due to another Esther incident, he takes Esther and Max home, lights up a cigarette and drinks the entire bottle of wine that he had found earlier. This is the kind of thing that keeps the characters from gaining any of the audience's sympathy; well, that, and the complete lack of character development.

I've had to bite my tongue, or rather, cross my fingers to stop myself from revealing the incredibly lame "twist" at the end. This twist creates a new definition of incredibly lazy writing that had me laughing in my seat, which I highly doubt was the reaction the filmmakers were going for, as the film tried to carry on with its serious tone, but it's not like it was really mattering at this point as the characters had not given us any reason to care about them in the first place.

The ending returns to the land of overused clichés (Is the killer really dead yet?, cops arriving after all of the action has taken place). The last 15-20 or so minutes of the film are very poorly shot and edited. These are scenes that take place almost completely in the dark, and are done in such a way that makes it rather difficult to tell what was happening to whom, again, not that it really mattered. With all of the ineffective scares, the audience is left wondering why they are watching this movie. What it needed was more originality, a better twist (or no twist at all, evil doesn't necessarily need to be explained), and some slightly smarter characters. The only thing left to say is: Move over "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," you've been dethroned as the worst movie of the year....so far. 1.5/4 stars.
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Old 08-07-2009, 04:05 AM
She is a child that doesn't really fit in, but doesn't seem to mind. When they bring her home, she and Max quickly form a friendship while Daniel finds her too strange. Kate and John think they have made a great choice, that is, until strange things start happening, all of which seem to be revolving around Esther.

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