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ORPHAN - DVD Movie
A bad seed with a Russian accent, 9-year-old Esther Isabelle Fuhrman is a nasty little girl with a nasty little plan. Unfortunately, this malevolent tyke has landed in the home of adoptive parents Kate and John Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, an unsuspecting couple with two kids of their own and considerable grief over recent family tragedies. It doesn't take long for Esther to make her creepy presence known, as broken limbs on the playground and torched tree houses can attest. Give this movie some credit--the psychological underpinnings are all set carefully in place: Maternal trauma? Check. Backyard pond as emotionally charged danger zone? Check. Feminist parable about husbands not listening to troubled wives? Check. The casting of reputable actors such as Farmiga and Sarsgaard also ups the movie's class quotient; Farmiga in particular has an emotional workout, and this gifted actress strikes few false notes even as the scenario becomes increasingly lurid. There's some déjà vu here: Farmiga also played a mother realizing her kid was "not right" in Joshua, a much superior film. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, of House of Wax notoriety, knows full well the unsettling weirdness of seeing a child commit murderous mayhem, and he presses all the buttons with something like unholy joy. The movie begins to drive off the rails even before a clumsy twist hits the fan near the end, and at that point, the mechanical exercise becomes downright silly. The Omen's Damien has nothing to worry about. --Robert Horton