Orphan

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Posted July 23, 2009 in Film

It’s the summer of pulp and though Orphan isn’t quite as good as Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, it’s a decent excuse to slip into an air-conditioned theater for a few chills. A married couple named Kate and John (Vera Farminga and Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt a sister for their two kids Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Aryana Engineer), an angelic deaf mute. At the home for parentless girls, they fall for a quirky nine-year-old Russian girl named Esther, (Isabelle Furhman) whose aloof, hipster artsy-quirkiness appeals to their yuppie bohemianism. Kate and John are your classic dopes, both well-meaning and riddled with enough privileged guilt that they’ll bend over backwards to seem open-minded. But no one is prepared for Esther’s gulag mentality as she divides and conquers their happy home, taking prisoners with secrets and threats and only barely trying to restrain herself from bashing in the heads of her enemies with a rock. In the opening scene, miscarriage mother-of-two Kate (Vera Farminga) has a nightmare that is horrific enough to make every girl in the room curl up into a ball; otherwise, true scares are few, and that’s fine for director Jaume Collet-Serra. Despite the moody cinematography, this knows it’s a lark. When Kate turns to her callow therapist (Margo Martindale) for guidance, we can faintly see that the office’s windows look out into a meat packing plant with men wrangling sides of cows. The climax is so silly your eyes will roll themselves out of their heads, but I didn’t mind wasting two hours watching the truly ferocious Furhman teach Max how to play Russian roulette and snickering when Kate thinks to Google “children who kill.”

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