Cold War may be over for almost two decades now, but Hollywood still can’t
resist having a Russian villain yet again in Orphan, now available on
Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand & Digital Download courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment.
The “evil child” has been a staple of the horror movie
genre ever since The Bad Seed back in 1956. There were the Aryan
superchildren of Village of the Damned,
little Damien from The Omen and Linda Blair in The Exorcist to
mention only a few. And we don’t even want to talk about Macaulay Culkin
(that kid from the Home Alone movies) in The Good Son . . .
The latest cinematic incarnation of the “evil child” is
Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a nine-year-old Russian orphan who is adopted by
an over-privileged American couple (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard). We
know that Esther is of course evil because she is a “foreigner” (i.e.
non-American) and, well, we all saw the trailer. Soon Esther is squashing
pigeons with bricks, assaulting nuns with hammers, causing car accidents and
so on. (She probably saw The Omen one time too many.)
At one point we thought that one can almost make an
argument for Orphan being a case of culture clash in action. Her
classmates make fun of Esther because she dresses conservatively, carries a
Bible around and is courteous. All of which makes her the 100% opposite of
movie – as well as real-life - nine-year-olds. (Oh, she also plays
Tchaikovsky flawlessly on the piano, which makes her a bit of Alex the Droog
When Esther goes after her bully tormenters one actually
roots for her. It is almost a case of the decadent coddled First World vs.
the not-so coddled Second World in action. But then the patently ridiculous
and stupid plot twist rolls around and Orphan becomes merely a
ridiculous horror movie instead of a ridiculous evil child horror movie.
Yup, Orphan has one of those jaw-droppingly idiotic
plot twists that will make you shout “ah, come on!” at the TV set. All
common sense and logic gets thrown out the window for the movie’s finale and
the only moral one can glean from the proceedings are: “Don’t adopt kids
with dodgy Russian accents . . .”
THE DISC: The disc opens with some ads for the BLU-RAY
format, which is a bit redundant because if you’re viewing the disc it means
that you probably have already converted to the new format. There is also an
ad for an adoption NGO, which states that real adopted kids are nothing like
the one featured in the movie. This disclaimer is a bit like a safety
warning that you shouldn’t pour hot scalding coffee down your trousers!
Not much in terms of special features.
There is one documentary titled “Mama’s Little Devils: Bad
Seeds and Evil Children” in which some shrinks and movie geeks go on about
child psychopaths and horror movies with child psychopaths in them. Things
are quite superficial however and could have been enlivened by some more
footage from the movies mentioned in the documentary and maybe some news
footage. The words “child soldiers” and “Lord of the Flies” are never
mentioned so much as once because the documentary seems as unconvinced as
the feature film itself that children could really be evil.
In addition to this there are some deleted scenes that
don’t add much. One deleted scene actually humanises Esther and it is
understandable why it was cut. There is also an alternate ending which isn’t
really as “chilling” as the box art says it is.
Oh, and you can also get a digital copy that you can
upload onto your cell phone, but why you would want to do that while you can
watch a 1080p high-definition transfer on your HD TV is a bit of a mystery.
WORTH IT? Orphan is slickly made and
well-acted, but that ending is so unbelievably moronic that none of it
RECOMMENDATION: A rental this Halloween at best.