‘Orphan’ goes over the top with creepy kid

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:52pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

As creepy-kid movies go, “Orphan” can’t be accused of underplaying its premise. This baby throws murder, adoption anxiety, maternal guilt and sibling rivalry into its bloody stew.

It might have the most determinedly malevolent tyke since the original “Omen” pictures, too. The horrible child in question is Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a Russian orphan adopted by Kate and John (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard).

Kate and John have the requisite cool house and two kids already. Kate’s had drinking problems in the past and is haunted by the loss of a third child at birth.

Alas, where Esther goes, trouble follows. She seems like a prim girl with a weirdly formal fashion sense and a large vocabulary, but (as a classmate at school learns) she is not to be crossed.

Esther exerts her will over her adoptive siblings, and eventually Kate comes to suspect this little monster of evil intent. But when Kate starts babbling about Esther’s malevolent nature, she’s the one who sounds crazy.

Along with the scary-movie shocks, the movie’s a showcase for Vera Farmiga (“The Departed”), the gifted actress who plays Kate. Farmiga gives an intensely physical performance, shifting her body around as though it’s too sensitive to bear earthly issues. (She already played the mother in a demon-child picture, “Joshua,” which was much more interesting than this one.)

She and Sarsgaard are obviously too talented for the pulp shocks of “Orphan,” which ladles on the horror with a kind of unrepentant glee. Director Jaume Collet-Serra understands that there’s something uniquely unsettling about the depiction of violence committed by children, whether it’s against other children or against grown-ups.

Collet-Serra directed the Paris Hilton “House of Wax,” so he has some bad karma to make up for. “Orphan” won’t do it, although it is certainly relentless.

Nothing gets held back: Esther is a single-minded bad seed. She’ll shove her sister into the path of an oncoming car or commit bodily trauma against herself to implicate Kate, if it keeps her nefarious plan on track.

“Orphan” stretches out to 123 minutes, which is plenty of time to include a final-act twist. At that point, you’ll be rolling your eyes— mostly in exasperation, and also to be sure Esther isn’t standing behind you with a kitchen knife.

Talk to us

More in Life

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

Most Read