Movie Review: Orphan (2009) – Scream Factory Blu-ray

June 1, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Kate and John Coleman (played by The Conjuring series’ Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard respectively) are down in the dumps and sorta on the rocks after the stillborn death of their third child, so they decide to adopt the freakishly gifted Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) from ye olde local orphanage.

While their son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) is lukewarm to his new sister at best, his sister, the deaf mute Max (Aryana Engineer), couldn’t be more thrilled with Esther’s presence.

Of course this being a fright flick and all, Esther has a few issues, and before long Kate is mega-suspicious that her brand-new terror tyke is much more than she seems, in the worst possible ways… a fact that the orphanage’s head honcho, Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder) confirms when she reveals the shaky past our girl had back home in Russia.

Will Kate be able to convince the family that her feelings are correct, or will that home sweet home turn into a pile of shit… and violent shit at that!

Coming from Director Jaume Collet-Serra (2005’s underrated remake of House of Wax) and Screenwriters David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Alex Mace, Orphan is a slow burn shocking suspense story done oh so freakin’ right!

So what makes it all work?

For starters, the story at hand isn’t afraid to go pretty damn dark with it’s constant placement of kids in perilous sitches left, right and all points in-between (and fair warning some of it is truly gross)… but there’s enough over-the-top elements and black humor to deescalate things a tad and make the whole picture incredibly entertaining and solidly unrealistic (in the movie.. I mean I know these things kinda/sorta happened in reality too… twice… but I’m not mentioning those particular cases by name as to attempt to preserve the film’s secrets)!

All of that groovy ghoulish goodness works it’s wicked wonder because it’s aided and abetted by a stellar cast, and leading the way is Fuhrman who delivers a multi-layered performance that can go from innocent to insane at the drop of a hat and truly sells the spectacular crazy that is Esther!

Farmiga shines here as well as the flawed yet sympathetic… not to mention incredibly driven Kate; a woman that has suffered unbelievable mental trauma even before the story proper begins, and she imbues the character with a sense of deep sadness and admirable resilience to the evil befalling her family.

Another super cool gimmick here involves the use of black-light… but, as per usual with this review, I can’t tell you exactly how it’s utilized… anyway, while being cool and all that, it is also a feature of the film’s end credits and gives a fun bit o’ spice to what is, at it’s best, a fuckin’ list of names… and to be fair it makes the opening credits fun as well…

Speaking of “spice”, this Blu-ray Collector’s Edition release from Scream Factory features a few special features to kick your enjoyment of this flick a notch, and here’s a thoughtful and handy list of what they are: an interview with the film’s Composer, John Ottman, a look at the psychology behind the film (and the “evil children” genre in general), a collection of deleted scenes, a still gallery, and the film’s trailer… but wait, there’s more!

Also included are four audio commentaries featuring film critics The Tasteless Podcast’s Emily Higgins & We Watched a Thing’s Billy Dunham, Attack of the Killer Podcast’s Mike Saunders, Jason Bolinger, Tadd Good & Bryan Clark, Fangoria’s Chris Alexander & Actress Ali Chappell, and Daily Dead’s Heather Wixson respectively. All of these tracks are entertaining listens, and present both knowledgeable conversation about the film’s themes and place within the sub-genre, as well as (and even better in my opinion) discussions from professionals that are more importantly fans of the film (or in some case neophyte viewers of it) as their enthusiasm for the material really enhances the feature!

Even though it’s only been on the scene for 15 years, Orphan is a stone-cold fright flick (Neo) classic; it’s got suspense, secrets, and a sinister sadistic streak 666 miles long… which makes it a must-see in my beastly book!

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