REVIEW: Orphan

22 02 2010

So this is what Vera Farmiga does when she doesn’t want to work with A-list directors like Martin Scorsese and Jason Reitman!

Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard headline “Orphan,” a prototypical horror film.  It’s a movie that knows it’s limits, an admirable and rare quality in cinema today.  The filmmakers recognize that they are not abounding in originality or imagination, yet somehow they manage to create a movie that is very thoroughly engrossing.  Although it is horror, almost as notoriously predictable as romantic comedy, we still anticipate with trepidation each event that gets our heart racing a little faster.

Chalk up most of the nail-biting tension that makes the movie so scary to a chilling performance by the young Isabelle Fuhrman, who plays the demonic 9-year-old titular character.  She is scary good, making each violent deed committed more and more shocking.  Making a character that an audience can unequivocally detest is tricky, and Fuhrman makes you hate her Esther practically from the outset.  I felt like jumping into the movie and killing her evil creation.

Farmiga and Sarsgaard get the distinct pleasure to bear their fine acting chops as background music to the diabolical rampage of their adopted daughter.  They play a pretty subplot of marital strife caused by drinking and the death of a child with passion and believability, but no one watches “Orphan” because it is a gripping domestic drama.  It is a terrifying escalation of horror committed by a nefarious young perpetrator, and it succeeds in rattling the audience’s cage.  B+ /


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