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Ryder: Orphan

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by Ryder, Nov 12, 2016.

  1. Ryder

    Oct 10, 2016
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    Orphan (2009)
    Before The Conjuring came along to sweep horror movie fans back into the rejuvenation of the genre, there was this movie - and appropriately enough, also starred Vera Farmiga in a winning performance far surpassing her later, more notable role as Lorraine Warren. Here, she played a mother named Kate Coleman who's struggling with the loss of her child. Deciding to overcome her trauma, she wanted to give her unreciprocated love to an orphan named Esther. Things didn't go quite as planned, as the 'child' hides a dark secret.

    Orphan marked a welcoming return to the horror genre that James Wan's Insidious would pick up a year later. For the one that got the ball rolling, it was a commendable effort, albeit undeniably flawed. The main factor that kept a good portion of the film from achieving excellence was its reliance on convenient plot-devices and some very dumb characters, one of whom, the dumbest of'em all, was too dumb to live. One of the persisting issues that exist in movies with problematic children is that the parents never talk to their children, ever. While this can be understandable in real life, considering the amount of bad parenting out there, the parents in the movie don't behave like the irresponsible parents out there without regards for their children, so their personality was already contradicting with the main conflict of the story! The story just tried in the most obvious way to make the worst case scenario happened by making the characters do something incredibly moronic that real loving parents they tried to act like would have thought of in the first place.

    So because the bad things that happened later in the story happened because of the parents' own fault - particularly the father - there should've been very little reason to care about what unfolds next. Thankfully, Farmiga's very believable portrayal kept me caring about the struggle of the mother to protect her children. The kids played a prominent role in keeping the audience caring too, particularly the older brother, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett, AKA young James T. Kirk in Star Trek 2009), who could've so easily been an edgy rebellious teen, but instead brought a refreshing perspective to the story. Isabelle Fuhrman as orphan Esther is worth commending too for her creepy and surreal performance, but most of the film's quality hinges on Farmiga more than Fuhrman in this writer's opinion.

    There's also the very palpable tension, of course, that later horror movies reviving the genre would express better. Some minor jump scares aside, most of the scares were genuine, relying on real adult fears regarding parenthood than cheap horror techniques (although there were still cheap horror techniques).

    The few good moments that raised my suspense presented an unpolished film that served as a good template for better productions to follow - and as mentioned, such movies are always commendable.


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