31 Days of Halloween, Day 3 – The kids are NOT alright. It’s KILLER KID WEEK!

Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week 

Today’s selection:

The Orphan (2009)
Purple ribbons, pigtails, and reverse-matricide — that’s what this crazy little brat is made of. Her name is Esther and she’s here to break the rules — time-out corner be damned! Parents Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga adopt an adorably (at first) intense Russian immigrant girl. A decision made spiky by the latent relationship it may have to the heartbreaking stillbirth of their third child. (A shocking, explicitly blood-soaked prologue gives us the back story and tells us up front; all bets are off where this movie’s boundaries are concerned.) Ultimately, Mom and Dad’s motivations for adopting become irrelevant because, as the ads made clear, “there is something wrong with Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman. A true force of nature, incidentally.).” And if you weren’t sure up until the big bathroom stall freak out scene, it’ll do the job.

She’s barely had time to unpack her accent but wastes no time getting to the wrongness… pushing mouthy brats off of jungle gyms (!), clubbing nuns (!!), shoving her new deaf sister into traffic (!!!) and (ulp!) seducing daddy (!!!!). No really. When Esther starts showing her true colors and a method to her madness begins to emerge, no one believes her adoptive mommy who everyone knows, used to be a scorching alcoholic, making her responsible for one child’s deafness AND the above-mentioned still-birth. (Seriously, expectant moms? Stay away.) Those kinds of things are just no damn good for your parental credibility. But it should also be noted that Dad takes a disturbingly long time to finally catch up with the script — which also raises some unfortunate questions.

Where the “killer kids” formula is concerned, The Orphan benefits from lots of queasy thrills and a real corker of a twist ending; a distant second to the surprising  final few minutes of Sleepaway Camp. There are some canyon-sized plot holes and a drawn out cat-and-mouse climax that undermines its outrageously audacious, unbelievable but still incredibly satisfying twist.  The Orphan holds its own in the pantheon of terrible tyke movies like The Omen and The Bad Seed, while leaving movies like Children of the Corn and The Good Son in the dust. It’s trashy, shameless and self-consciously twisted. I also liked that despite the wall-to-wall wrongness, there is a sense of humor (black as pitch, mind you) at work here. The downside is a marginally erratic tone — but who cares? I think The Orphan is awesome and I want to believe that it will age into a classic of the genre for its moxie and audacity alone. It goes places no killer-kid movie has gone before and if loving that about it is wrong … Do I even have to say it?
*** (out of four)

"I said, DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, Esther!"

~ by Number5ive on October 3, 2011.

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