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Tragedy seems to follow nine-year old Esther. She was orphaned in her native Russia and her last adoptive family perished in a fire she barely escaped. But now the Coleman family has adopted her and life is good. Until a classmate takes a serious fall in the schoolyard. Until an orphanage nun is battered to death. Until Esther's new mother wonders if that tragic fire was really an accident and starts to believe that Esther isn't the bright, sweet little girl she pretends to be.

Orphan is the latest movie to enter into the 'Evil Child' sub-genre of horror films and thrillers, a sub-genre that has had plenty of hits and plenty of misses. The barometer I use when viewing these movies goes something like this-- 1956's The Bad Seed with it's chilling performance from Patty McCormack as Rhoda and Robert Mulligan's The Other are near the top and where all movies that enter this genre are judged. After that the original Richard Donner The Omen is somewhere in the middle, with 1993's The Good Son at the bottom of the barrel, but amazingly still right above Problem Child and Problem Child 2 who couldn't sniff the barrel to begin with.

Using that barometer, Orphan lingers right around the pseudo biography of Macaulay Culkin's childhood. If there was a cliche used in all of those previous movies that this movie didn't throw at me I must have missed it or nodded off during the picture's longer than it actually is 123-minute running time. The filmmakers even made sure to make good use of Rosemary's Baby when pilfering for ideas and giving the very capable Vera Farmiga all of the hysterical "this child's evil and no one will believe me" dialogue they could squeeze in without sounding too ridiculous. Actually, strike that. The dialogue is ridiculous and unintentionally laughable throughout most of the picture and from all involved, even when recited by such dependable actors as Peter Sarsgaard and CCH Pounder who try their best with what they have.

Originality and dialogue aside, this movie has a lot of other problems and is guilty of some large gaps in logic, having a glacial pace (did I mention this movie is 123-minutes long already?), and having nary a scare or thrill to be found. Having said that, I've enjoyed movies with far less technical polish, far less originality, and far worse actors spouting off scripts seemingly written on the fly and probably on restaurant napkins. Have you ever seen the 1980 evil child flick The Children? If you have you should know exactly what I'm talking about, and if you haven't you should seek it out someday.

My real problem with Orphan is deeper than what I've already mentioned and has to do with its cavalier attitude towards placing children in the situations it does, especially when it comes to the youngest child of the Coleman's who also happens to be deaf. In one sequence alone the innocent is thrown out into traffic, made to drag a near lifeless body from a snowy road and then cover up the crime after being threatened. Later during the film's climax she's shot at and ultimately fires a revolver, which makes Orphan not only guilty of being in extremely bad taste but of stretching plausibility well past its limits too.

Now I don't consider myself a prude--in fact I'm far from it and been told as much many, many times--and maybe it's the parent in me that makes me feel this way, but guns and kids in movies like this just don't mix. It's cheap and lazy of the filmmakers to place the two together in a movie that is meant to be nothing more than a pulp thriller and I can't see any excuse for it. Given that, the little deaf girl with a piece is just the icing on the cake as far as what the filmmakers make their child stars go through. Just wait until the picture's surprise twist comes at the start of the third act. I won't reveal it here, but if you're paying any attention at all you'll see it coming a mile away, and even then you still won't believe what you're watching. Repulsive.

No matter what one might think of the film itself, no one can argue that Warner's video transfer of the film to Blu-ray isn't great. The 1080p VC-1 transfer is excellent, featuring deep consistent black levels, nice sharp detail in every frame and superb handling of the subdued, wintry color scheme as well as the frantic colors seen later in the movie and sporadically throughout. Being a relatively new film I didn't see any traces of artifacting from the source used, and didn't really notice any digital noise reduction, aliasing or other such anomalies in the video that would hinder one's enjoyment watching the film. Those looking for a true to theater experience are going to certainly get it as this is an excellent video transfer.

The disc's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio presentation is largely on par with the video and an effective one for a thriller such as this. Dialogue is clear from the center channel with sound levels in all channels balanced quite well. The surround channels are used to great effect in providing some jolts and delivering an enveloping experience, and the LFE channel has some heft to it when called for from time to time. Overall this is a decent track that supplies what it needs to--not exactly reference quality, show off your system stuff, but just what the picture needs.

I was surprised to find so few extras on the disc, but I guess I can be thankful for small miracles. Included is a high definition, 15-minute featurette entitled Mama's Little Devil's: Bad Seeds and Evil Children which discusses the film's titular character and serves to remind you of other, better films. The other extra is an approximately 4-minute segment of deleted scenes and an alternate ending that really doesn't add much to the total package. Also included is a digital copy of the film so that you can torture yourself on the go, and the Blu-ray disc is BD-Live enabled.

If I only make one thing clear in this review, let it be that I hated this movie. And I don't mean I disliked it because it wasn't entertaining or thought it was bland, no, I really hated it. I could excuse Orphan for building its premise on and executing nearly every cliche in the 'Evil Child' genre as it's not like far better films haven't done the exact same thing. If that were the case all it would be guilty of is being an unoriginal bore that goes on for about 30-minutes too long. What I can't excuse it for is being morally reprehensible, especially in the third act when I was praying that the laborious 123-minute running time would come to an end.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray disc is technically great and right along with their high standards featuring a very strong audio and video package, but the extras are light to say the least. Overall I can't really recommend Orphan to anyone except those who just can't get enough of watching children do very bad things, which I get enough of in my house as it is. Everyone else should move along and make their way over to Warner's recently released Trick 'R Treat instead, there's nothing to see here.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray.