Orphan (UK - BD RB)
I blame the parents! Marcus checks out the latest naughty kid movie on Blu-ray...
After losing their third child in pregnancy, the Coleman family have been under a lot of strain to find their feet again. Kate (Vera Farmiga) is distant and finding it hard to re-connect with husband John (Peter Sarsgaard), but with the idea of using the love they had built for their unborn child and giving it to a new adopted child, this family might just find the uplifting solution to their problems.
After meeting incredibly offbeat Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) at the orphanage, with her intelligent outlook, well developed art skills and polite nature, the family decide to welcome her into their home, only to find that when bad things happen, Esther always seems to be around.
What is it with Vera Farmiga and evil kids? After 2007’s Joshua (a far superior movie to this—it’s lack of a convenient twist made it far, far scarier) you’d be forgiven for thinking that she has a thing for playing broken mothers who have their world collapse around them and have no one believe them when they say it’s the kid's fault! However, it has to be said that she does this sort of thing with ease and a whole lot of believability. For the first third of the movie, Fuhrman’s performance draws you in and you just want to give her a hug to make it all better, but then we meet with Esther and what began as a fairly well delivered drama becomes the thriller the movie really wants to be.
Now as a positive, if a movie wants you to hate its evil character, Orphan totally succeeds. The level of nasty that this adopted kid thrives in just frustrated the hell out of me (the bully tactics she pulls with the family’s youngest deaf child Max especially got my back up) and I just wanted to stick with it to see her get her comeuppance. Sadly this isn’t enough to make the film a good one and the longer the movie progresses the less I swallowed the clunky as hell reveals of Esther's frankly ridiculous character.
For a start, who are they trying to kid that anyone is going to adopt a kid who dresses like she’s Victorian, and if they did how long is it going to be before enough is enough and those clothes get ditched. Admittedly the writers give themselves a bit of an out by layering in a little speech about how good it is to be different to other kids, but it doesn’t end there. Everything Esther does is as if the family have absolutely no sense of parenting, which would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that they have already been depicted as pretty good parents.
It continues with a series of events involving Esther’s manipulation of situations. The stupidly tense playground scene where the local bully gets pushed off a slide is just too ‘adult’ in its depiction of fear to be believable, and even though Esther’s threats to the other Coleman kids are nasty, I just felt that the kids had plenty of opportunities to tell their parents, especially outside of the house when Esther didn’t have access to the family gun that she could kill Mommy and Daddy with.
This may all begin to get a little heavy handed, but I’ll admit that it still kept me locked into the story. Esther was over the top enough to keep me entertained and maybe even a little interested in what was going to happen next, even if it does get incredibly clichéd towards the end. Also, however hokey the over acting gets in the dramatic closing scenes, nothing is as bad as Peter Sarsgaard’s character arc. His oblivious over reactions to his wife’s claims about their new kid become such a grind to sit through that by the time he’s alone with Esther for the movie's (weird) climactic ending he’s such a douche bag that I was almost willing that he got gruesome exit.
As for the twist, I won’t give anything away here, but I will say that while it explains plenty and is fairly successful, it has to be said that it raises about as many questions as it does explain what’s come before its reveal. Now whether that’s a good or a bad thing (or enough to make sequels out of), I’m not entirely sure but I will say that it makes the movie more memorable than plenty of other movies in the same ilk such as The Unborn or other dross like that.
This has to be one of the dullest HD transfers I’ve seen in the Blu-ray catalogue. This is mainly due its cold palette of greys and the snowy setting, but there’s nothing about it that pops. Nothing that really sells HD and certainly nothing I can think of that impressed me at all.
Detail levels feel washed out, the lighting is uneventful, and darker scenes can look murky, bringing plenty more attention to the fairly high level of grain in some scenes. Overall, I’ve certainly seen worse on the HD format but never has the word ‘meh’ been more applicable.
Attempting to get you feeling a little unsettled in the first half of movie, Orphan has quite a good use of sound effects and atmospherics to creep you out a little, such as the scrape of the bathroom mirror as it opens and the screech of the tap. Wonderfully subtle chimes living in the rear left speakers or giggling orphanage girls in the front right all add a nice range to the track but come the second half when we’re neck deep in what’s going on it all becomes about short sharp shocks using bass and volume levels to get the job done. It’s a fine track that sells the intended jumps with precision.
'Mama's Little Devil's: Bad Seeds and Evil Children'(14:56 HD) is a fairly good little making of, with cast and crew interviews. It delves into the psychology of the evil child fascination and shows off plenty of spoilery clips from the movie—so ensure to watch it after the flick.
'Interviews' (18:36 HD) come from the directors, producers and Isabelle Fuhrman (Esther) who in comparison to her all-American personality really highlights how far removed her performance in the film actually was.
'Deleted and Alternative Scenes' (04:04 SD) don’t offer up a great deal, and lastly the theatrical trailer (02:27 HD) wraps up the disc.
A memorable character in a fairly paint by numbers horror/thriller doesn’t make this a totally successful outing. At best it does its job and stands slightly above the many, many other mediocre scarefests that seem to come out so regularly. At worst, you’ll be rolling your eyes at just how ineptly all of the characters handle the whole situation.
The disc itself is pretty bland with a splattering of extras and a transfer that coasts. The audio is a bit of a saving grace and does a fine job at creating a fine uncomfortable atmosphere. Even so you may want to try this one before you buy it.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 23rd November 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Mama’s Little Devils: Bad Seeds and Evil Children, Interviews, Deleted and Alternative Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 122 minutes
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