We all know there is something wrong with Esther -- the pervasive ad campaign for Orphan has made sure of that. Evil children movies are about providing a flimsy excuse for children to behave badly. And in this case, very badly -- bashing-a-nun's-head-in-with-a-hammer badly. That's a spoiler but only from the halfway mark of the movie -- Esther gets gruesome quick, there's no waiting for the dramatic end scene for violence, manipulation, paranoia, and an Electra complex to show up.
Nevermind a few plotholes along the way and inexplicable logic in some characters' behavior. Instead just kick back and enjoy Peter Sarsgaard's contract which appears to guarantee every film this beautiful man does involves nudity and sex scenes and I'm not at all mad about that. Those moments of skin are the most enjoyable ones for the audience, the rest of the time is filled to the nauseous gills with anxiety and dread. I don't mind a gag-inducing horror film, but Orphan is a bit mean and relentless, so when I left the theater, I only wanted to hurry home to shower it off and hide under the covers from the world.
This movie doesn't top the classic The Bad Seed, but it's certainly better than that Macauley Culkin attempt from the early 90s, The Good Son (as well as an improvement on director Jaume Collet-Serra's previous attempt at a horror movie, the nearly unwatchable House of Wax). Ignore the critics who are all claiming this twist at the end is better than The Sixth Sense -- this brutal fluff isn't THAT mind-blowing, but more on par with a sweeps week episode of CSI or Medium. It will, however, help you swallow the whole premise without completely decimating your own desire to adopt children, and send you home with a few good quotable lines.
-- RAYMOND JOHNSON
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