Orphan

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Remo D
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Orphan

Post by Remo D » Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:39 pm

Wow. I'm blown away. Here's the shot in the arm I've been wanting for a long time!

Okay, let me explain. I knew very, very little about ORPHAN going in. I just knew that it made use of the popular BAD SEED "child from hell" tropes and that it came from Dark Castle (and the director of their HOUSE OF WAX).

Then people started issuing spoiler warnings, so I tuned out any reference to the movie until such time as I saw it. But I DID find out that both Roger Ebert and Mick LaSalle gave it high marks. BOTH of them? Okay, Mick liked BAGHEAD but Roger didn't... calculate, calculate... nope, still can't figure out if that means I'm going to like it. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

Oh, and I used to look forward to new Dark Castle productions like few others. But the last two were RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and THE REAPING, both of which were huge disappointments. Well, THE REAPING was a disappointment--I can't say I expected great things from a DTV sequel that should never have been made in the first place.

And this has been a desperately lousy passage in horror history. I've gotten solidly behind TWO genre films so far this year. CORALINE was one, and I've got to argue for the inclusion of a PG-rated animated film aimed at family audiences when I invoke it (and I DO still invoke it). The other was the remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (heaven help me, a remake that WORKED and stood on its OWN for the most part)! Pretty slim pickings... then again I've been skipping movies like mad, too, as I simply KNOW that I'm not going to be interested (and you can put everything from THE UNBORN to THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT in that basket).

(Well, there's all that and the fact that the parents in ORPHAN are named John and Kate--thought that might be a good laugh at the expense of insufferable 'reality' television, if you REALLY want to know what I think is wrong with entertainment today...)

But now there's ORPHAN. And it wastes NO time getting in your face with some seriously disturbing material. As if Katherine (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) didn't have enough trouble with their history of infidelity and alcohol abuse, they've lost their unborn third child most traumatically. They already have a rude, off-putting son named Daniel and a delightful special-needs (deafness) daughter named Max... but they're going to adopt all the same. And as you already know, sweet, charming intelligent Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) has issues.

ORPHAN veers awfully close to JOSHUA territory... Vera Farmiga ALSO played the mother of a lethal problem child in THAT movie, and for a while it looked like ORPHAN was going to be all about Esther doing to Katherine (I dropped the "Jon & Kate" joke scarcely the movie began as this was no camp-fest) what Joshua had done to Sam Rockwell in the earlier film. I was ready to shake my head and protest "Too close! Too close!"

I needn't have worried. ORPHAN finds its own way in a BIG way. I won't tell you WHERE it goes, but I was prepared for anything (hell, with that velvet ribbon around Esther's neck, I was wondering if her head might actually fall off like in that classic old ghost story, and I wouldn't have put it past the movie, either!).

Director Jaume Collet-Serra also took nearly two hours to tell HOUSE OF WAX. He's a director that believes on building up all of his characters before the truly nasty business sets in. But while I essentially liked HOUSE OF WAX, the problem there was that the characters in THAT movie simply weren't worth spending all that time with. THESE characters ARE. And Collet-Serra deploys them expertly. You're ready to take Esther's side when she takes action against cruel classmates (in a 'haven't you always WANTED to do that' sort of way). You truly feel for Katherine as she attempts to come to grips with her issues (and keep Max on her side as her truly loving daughter... the sign language and lip-reading interplay is absolutely inspired in this film). You want to take the superficial therapist by the collar and give her a good SHAKE... and even as husband John's attitude frustrates you and Katherine alike, you can still (reluctantly) see where he's coming from, too.

And when the first cold, deliberate act of cruelty DOES take place, you're going to gasp as a result.

One should note that this Dark Castle production does NOT feature design by Graham "Grace" Walker and focus all its energies on a single, spectacular visual landmark. No, we've left the HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL far behind, but some lesser-known William Castle items can still be felt in the background. Dare I suggest the transgressive LET'S KILL UNCLE? Think about that film. For all its lightheartedness, what were the characters in it actually WILLING TO DO and TO WHOM? Don't expect any sympathy from ORPHAN, which plays any number of uncomfortable, potentially sinful cards in its effort to get to you. Of course it's outrageous (though, again, I won't say exactly how). But it's also creepy, nasty and (thank heavens) UNPREDICTABLE! Sure, you'll see certain things coming, because you're supposed to... but right up to the point where the credits actually hit the screen, I could not say with confidence that I knew exactly how it was going to turn out for ANYONE.

Writing, acting, direction, overall effect... ORPHAN quite simply WORKS.

Go.
My dog's breath smells like peanut butter...

...and I don't even have a dog!


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Evil Red
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Post by Evil Red » Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:08 am

I managed to finally catch the very last showing in town tonight and DAMN! This was a surprisingly really good movie!

Hope you all caught it too. :metal:
I made the Devil do it.

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DylanDog
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Post by DylanDog » Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:56 pm

I am usually not a big fan of the evil child movies (although I did like Joshua) so this one was behind the 8 ball for me from the get go. I thought the actors did great jobs and the suspense was indeed top notch...

but....

SPOILERS BELOW...
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.. there was at least 2 things about it I did not like one bit. First, the twist. No, I didn't see it coming, but I feel like if you are going to tell an audience that the character they've been watching was an adult all along, then that should really be the case. Find an adult actress who really has this condition and cast her in the role. Not a 12 year old in makeup. It's the difference between a deception and a lie.

Second, the seduction scene. The character was 9 years old and you can later say she was really 33 all you want (even though she was actually 12), but no matter how you slice it, to me, that scene seemed tailor made for pedos and I am not cool with that.
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