An unstable couple (Vera Fermiga and Peter Saarsgaard) adopt little Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) and things immediately go bad in Orphan, the latest (but far from greatest) in a long line of “the-child-ain’t-right” horror movies. The poster for the movie declares, “There’s Something Wrong With Esther,” but it’s the filmmakers who are in the wrong. It’s one thing to show a masked psychopath carving up dumb teenagers; it’s another thing entirely to show a little girl repeatedly bash a grown-up’s head with a hammer while another child watches. Or to show a little girl dress up like a prostitute so she can seduce her adopted father. Or to depict a child setting a little boy on fire and watching him burn. Or…well, you get the picture.
Fermiga gives a good performance and the film is well directed. But a filmmaker can only make a movie look so good before his visual gloss starts to slither off the slime he’s created. I don’t entirely blame the director, who probably thought he was making a “horror classic,” or the screenwriters, who probably got bullied by mean little girls. On the other hand, I am shocked that Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the executive producers—with his reportedly Oscar-worthy performance in Shutter Island just three months away did he really need to be associated with one of the worst films of the year?
Parents, please keep in mind that this is a slasher movie about children, not a slasher movie for children. I know how it is: you wanna see a movie, but you can’t find a sitter at the last minute and think, “Well, my kids have seen just about everything, how bad can this movie be?” Answer: bad. In fact, if there is one movie you don’t take your kids and pre-teens to see this year, make it this one.
In addition to being remarkably foul, the film has no internal logic. If you went to an orphanage and see a little girl dressed like Shirley Temple, sitting by herself, painting creepy pictures, singing songs older than you and learn that her previous guardians burned to death in a mysterious house fire, would you adopt her? The film’s gruesome and heartless opening scene, involving a gory miscarriage, is supposed to make you feel sorry for the couple. But considering how awesomely stupid they were to let this kid in their house, warnings and all, they get what they deserve.
You, on the other hand, have been properly warned. MTW