Aug 3, 2009

[Movies] Orphan (2009)

OrphanI've never been a big fan of horror movies, or suspense movies for that matter. I can appreciate the quality of the stories and the reasons why people go see them but I guess I just don't handle getting scared very well and I end up feeling very, very stressed. Stress may be a way of life for someone like me, but then darn, it's still not the same.

But still, I try to go see them when I can and recently the Fandom Live folks and I were lucky enough to get a few tickets to an advanced screening of Orphan from the local Warner Bros. distributor and I think I came out decently enough.

Given I'm not a big fan of horror movies, this review may turn out more interesting than expected, haha.

Orphan is a movie about a mother whose last child was stillborn and this eventually traumatizes her and leads her to alcoholism. Now recovering, she feels she's well enough to try and adopt a child in order to somehow find a place for all the love she had for her lost baby. She and her husband eventually find Esther, a young Russian girl, who seems perfect for them and highly precocious. Naturally things are not quite like what they appear to be and this is what drives the story along.

Casting wise, this movie did a pretty great job. Of course one had to expect a great performance from Vera Farmiga (who played the mother Kate), given her recently demonstrations of the acting prowess in movies like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas or The Departed. It was nice to see Peter Sarsgaard again (who played the father John) who I last remember seeing in...well...Jarhead? Okay, perhaps it's been a while and he definitely could use the acting gig, haha.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 21:  Actors Vera Farmig...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

But special mention definitely has to go out to Isabelle Furham, who played the title character of the orphan Esther. For someone her age, she did a fantastic job of the more-than-meets-the-eye 9 year old who really makes this a movie to be reckoned with.

Now one needs to be clear on what this movie truly is - it's a suspense / thriller film and not a "horror" movie per se. Horror tends to imply supernatural elements at work while suspense films are scary real life situations. I stress this point since you'll definitely get that feeling in the first half of the movie that this has to be a horror movie and there's something eerily unworldly about Esther.

The filmmakers seemed to push this perception even further by somewhat "playing" with the audience in the beginning. They added a lot of the "fundamental" horror sequences that we have all come to get used to - the scene along in the bathroom where the protagonist is staring at the mirror or the seemingly inappropriate love scene in the middle of everything - the list goes on and on. When we watched the movie, the audience started to laugh at themselves for reacting in a predictable manner to those scenes that would normally lead to a monster appearing or the killer resurfacing but instead found themselves staring at nothing. Now that's a movie that knows how to laugh at itself!

Will this make me watch more horror / suspense movies? Not necessarily, but I'm still not entirely against them or anything. If anything, I'm now a lot more suspicious of such movies since clearly the writers, producers and directors have learned a lot about the genre over the years and are trying to take such movies to greater heights of emotion and that's definitely not going to be good for managing me stress levels.

Orphan gets 4 florescent paint sets out of 5.

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