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Grieving over the loss of their stillborn baby Jessisca (along with the rebuilding of their marriage), John and Kate Coleman decide to adopt a child. They choose a nine year-old Russian girl named Esther from the St. Marina Orphanage. While the Coleman's deaf and mute daughter Maxine takes to Esther quickly, her brother Daniel does not. He's not the only one, as Kate soon feels that Esther is a schemer, and may have some sort of mental disturbance. A death by hammer later, and Kate begins to suspect there's more to Esther than previously thought.
Oh man. After just getting over watching the terrific (and terrifying) THE CHILDREN, along comes Jaume Collet-Serra's ORPHAN. I never had a chance to catch this while in theatres, so you can imagine my disappointment after seeing it now. Creepy as all get out, ORPHAN once again has me thinking twice about having kids, especially ones that are as vengeful as Esther.
Right away, big thumbs-up to the casting of this nasty little ditty. Besides Isabelle Fuhrman's incredible job as the charming and psychotic Esther, you have Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga, who've won/been nominated for a boatload of awards between the two of them. Then there's Aryana Engineer, who plays Maxine. Cute as a button, and despite being hearing impaired herself, Engineer does a wonderful job playing the daughter who has dirt on Esther, but literally can't say what it is. Not even once does she come off as the typical cloying child character we see in some films.
Jaume Collet-Serra's direction is another plus. The dude showed what he was capable of in HOUSE OF WAX (including killing Paris Hilton in the most delightful way), and here it's no exception. Besides playing with misdirection a couple of times, the film showcases some pretty brutal moments involving Esther taking her 'issues' out on folks. One scene involving Esther and a bully on a playground, only the whole thing felt very much like a stalking scene that you'd get in a grown-up situation, like a home. Very cool. Did I mention the twist? Yeah, it's one that reminded me of an episode of Batman: TAS which had a similar premise behind its villain, and not in a goofy way that so many other cartoons have done with the same idea.
Complaints? I have a few. One of which involves the film's runtime. At over two hours, things were kind of slow to advance at times. Also, there's a fair number of jump scares and clichéd horror moments to be found (a bathroom mirror, stupid people doing equally stupid things like letting the killer know that you're spilling the beans on them). Despite Peter Sarsgaard's acting, his character was thick as sh*t to not listen to his wife when she tells him about Esther. Seriously dude, stop thinking in terms of societal constructions about little girls and call the cops!
After all the papers are signed, ORPHAN was a brutal bit of fun, rough edges included. With some creepy and atmospheric cinematography, wonderful acting and downright brutal moments, ORPHAN is one to check out alongside THE CHILDREN. Hell, throw CHILD'S PLAY into the mix and you'll be swearing off kids and kid-related stuff for the rest of the year.
Video: ORPHAN looks damn good in HD. The 1.78:1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer has great detail and clarity. There's some film grain to this, but it's neither intrusive or unwelcome. Artifacting from compression is non-existent and color levels are solid.
Audio: ORPHAN won't blow the doors off your cabinets with its Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English track, but it's still good. Being more focused on the front speakers, the mix doesn't wander too much to the back to do much in terms of directionality, but dialogue is crisp and clear. Also available is a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 English track, as well as 5.1 French and Spanish mixes.
*Golf clap* Thanks, Warner Bros. You really know how to call this release a 'Special Edition', in that it's mentally retarded to have done so.
First up is 4 minutes of Deleted Scenes in standard definition. Everything seen here was explained later by dialogue, so much of it is unnecessary (which was why they were cut). As for the Alternate Ending, it's your typical 'leaving things open for sequels' move, which makes little sense when you stop and think how things could have gotten to that point.
The last extra is a Blu-Ray exclusive featurette running 15 minutes long. Mama's Little Devils: Bad Seeds and Evil Kids is seemingly Frankenstein's monster, in that it's a couple of featurettes stapled and glued together to fit a quarter of an hour. Besides showing some behind-the-scenes stuff, it's partly a promotional piece (and heavy on the spoilers, too) and also goes into the psychology of the film and others like it. Snipping bits and pieces from other 'killer kids' flicks makes this feel even more like a rush job that you'll watch once and never again.
Also, there's a Digital Copy of the film included, but anyone who can google and follow directions can figure out how to do it without jumping through Warner's hoops. Really, this is pretty awful of Warner to call this a Special Edition, when there's nothing special about it. No galleries, no trailers, no real documentaries, no commentaries. Nothing. It just shows how focused they were on another of their films in theatres at that time: HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.
Is it just me, or does the cover (and therefore, the poster) look a bit like the cover to Björk's 1997 album Homogenic?
A delight in both acting and brutality, ORPHAN is a creepy little thriller that works thanks in large part to its cast and director. While there are some tired horror conventions here, as well as pacing and runtime qualms, the film should certainly please those looking for a 'creepy killer kid' film. Warner Bros. deserves a middle finger for calling this a Special Edition, though, as the extras are about as informative as the ingredients to bottled water.