B Sound B Extras D
starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder
screenplay by David Leslie Johnson
directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
by Walter Chaw Jaume Collet-Serra's Orphan is a cheap, schlocky, shameless kid-peril flick with an unlikely--cowardly, even--twist and standard resolution. But I'll be damned if it isn't, despite all that, almost worth it just for its nastiness. Alas, in the end, it's not nasty enough. Without a thought in its head, without much understanding of how to earn legitimate frights without maiming (or threatening to maim) adorable children, it joins this year's similarly lost zombie girl-baby flick Grace among end-of-a-cycle, misogynistic shots at the Bad Seed genre. It's the kind of film that's more interesting for the fact of its relationship to other bad-seed flicks post-9/11 (e.g., Japanese redux The Ring and little-seen creeper Soft For Digging) than for anything it does itself. Interesting, too, that it's a relatively big-budget, mainstream picture starring a couple of extremely appealing actors (Peter Sarsgaard as John and Vera Farmiga as his wife, erm, Kate) as the patsies who adopt the titular hellchild, a Russian immigrant named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), from one of those autumnal orphanages run by nuns like cuddly Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder). Unfortunately, it's loaded with--there's that word again--cheap jump scares that, at least half the time, are so self-aware as to be parodies of themselves. Post-modernism it ain't, though--post-modernism is smart.