dir Jaume Collet-Serra
scr David Leslie Johnson
prd Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Downey, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Joel Silver
with Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jimmy Bennett, Aryana Engineer, CCH Pounder, Margo Martindale, Rosemary Dunsmore, Karel Roden, Jamie Young, Lorry Ayers, Genelle Williams
release US/Can 24.Jul.09,
UK 7.Aug.09
09/Canada Warner 2h03
A tale fo two sisters: Engineer and Fuhrman

farmiga sarsgaard martindale
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Orphan For a laughably preposterous thriller, this film is slickly made and much longer than expected. But it's an entertaining addition to the evil child genre, simply for its over-the-top chills and nutty plot.

Kate and John (Farmiga and Sarsgaard) live in a spectacular designer home in the snowy countryside with their bright children Danny and Maxine (Bennett and Engineer), who happens to be deaf. But they have a tormented past, peppered with infidelity, addiction and a tragic miscarriage. They decide to adopt a child to get back on course, and settle for the perky Esther (Fuhrman), a 9-year-old Russian who learns very quickly indeed. She's also up to no good, as the ominous underscore keeps reminding us.

The more we see Esther at work, the more we're amazed by her stealthy ninja tactics. She looks like a commando-trained supervillain as she sneaks around on her sinister business. The whole film is clearly designed for horror movie set pieces: cringe at the vertiginous tree-house, fret over the frozen-over pond! And as the final act explodes into deep nastiness, the plot takes a remarkably gonzo twist that's both creepy and rather hilarious.

For all of the glassy style director Collet-Serra injects into this film, it's still a thoroughly predictable thriller. Much of the film is shot like a particularly hellish nightmare, which indeed some scenes are. There are plenty of red herrings, scary noises and dream sequences to throw us off the scent and to keep us giggling at our jangled nerve endings. Meanwhile, the extremely strong cast dives fully into their B-movie roles, so we can smile at their idiotic actions, knowing that the grisliness will catch up with them in increasingly vicious ways.

Clearly, this is not the best ad for adoption, as it indulges in both common misconceptions and the cruel things people thoughtlessly say. The film also features the world's nicest but worst therapist (the marvellous Martindale), a smiley but inept nun (Pounder), some jaw-dropping anti-Russian moments and a supposedly happy marriage that's really a hotbed of mistrust and bitterness waiting to be stirred up by a black-hearted orphan. Yes, it's absolutely unhinged. And pretty good fun too.

cert 15 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality 21.Jul.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Orphan Brian Burba, Louisville Ky: 4/5 "Granted, this is fairly familiar territory, for a horror flick, but the acting of all three principals sets it apart. Esther's Russian accent works well here, and the manipulative streak in her is endearing as it is alarming, the mark of a true sociopath. Not that there much endearing about this film, but there is a depth here which makes the film extremely involving. The chilling conversation Esther has with her mother about her maternal failings is amazing in that we begin to see that this child has a major grasp of human emotions and frailty. Too bad all horror films aren't this well acted and written." (29.Jul.09)
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall