Orphan Review: Scares But Few Surprises

ORPHAN: On General Release Friday 7th August, 2009

Even those unfamiliar with horror film convention should be able to give a brief synopsis of Orphan from one quick glance at the film’s poster.

Whether this is a bad thing or not depends on your inclination towards scary movies.

This one delivers some heavily scheduled frights, brims with plot devices and operates around a rigid framework. But if you are in the mood, it hits a fairly satisfying punch.

The film centres on a couple who adopt a young girl after the death of their unborn child. Esther appears to be a sweet and articulate kid, but her past is filled with mystery, misfortune and coincidence. And away we go.

We all knew that she would be a little nightmare before the opening credits rolled, so the film’s main objective seems to be breaking any pre-conceptions that we might have about just how evil this little girl can be.

To give the director his due, these pre-conceptions are well and truly smashed – she oozes with creepiness at the best of times. Consequently, it’s painfully obvious to all of us that there is something wrong with Esther well before she starts wielding a hammer.

As the trail of destruction grows, there are some good set pieces and some rudimentary – but effective – plot bombshells, and we start to overlook this film’s failings and have some fun.

One thing that I could not swallow however was the ludicrously foolish father.

He refuses to believe that numerous car crashes, murders and fires – all of which started when Esther moved in – have anything to do with her, and virtually kicks his wife out when she accuses the little demon of any wrongdoing.

Although this is a necessary method of channelling the plot through the perspective of a mum who is haunted by ghosts of alcoholism and stillbirth, it is done in an exceptionally blunt and clumsy manner. Anyone who has seen The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, will feel strong echoes as Esther begins to manipulate divisions in the Coleman household.

Despite a nicely conceived final twist, the film is likely to be met with a wave of apathy by connoisseurs of the genre.

Sean Marland