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Three Things Most Annoying

Movie Title: Orphan (2009)
Spoilers: On down a ways.

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The movie Orphan looked to be a spellbinding work. The tagline is: “There’s something wrong with Esther.” Woo, how maniacally enticing! But never judge a book (or movie) by its cover (or trailer). That being said, there’s something wrong with this movie, it being a perfect example of bad writing and directing.

Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) is the adopted daughter of John and Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard). After suffering the loss of a child, the couple decides they are ready to adopt. They’ve fought some personal battles in the recent past, including alcoholism, but they’ve made it to the other side with the marriage intact. Now it’s time to move on and enjoy family life again. That won’t happen because of Esther. John and Kate got a bad girl.

We, the audience, got a mostly bad movie (some potentially redeeming moments of shock value aside). The sound affects: Good. The acting: Not so good, but better towards the middle and end. The choreography: Fair at best. Scenery: Typical. Can’t we at least once get a horror movie that is not set somewhere in the Northeastern United States during winter? Do ghosts actually prefer colder climates or something? Just once I want to hear a lawnmower and see some neighbors out watering the grass before heads start rolling.

Like the setting, Orphan is playbook horror stuff. It never deviates from what you’d expect from a clichéd and unremarkable Friday night thriller. The creepy music build-ups and sudden drop-offs just before nothing happens, the unconvincing screams, the contrived feeling that glides along right through to the end of this 123-minute film, it’s all “old hat” and hard to get into.

I watched, and what I saw made me angry, not scared. Below are the three things most annoying to be found in many poorly directed horror flicks. The pattern has become painful by now. * SPOILERS: Though not all plot-points will be revealed, more about the plot is addressed below. Some may want to quit reading here *



#1) The cops never get there on time: No matter when you call them or how frantically you tell them of the evil, crazy, ranting, raving, psychopathic killer in your home, who is in the middle of the very act of slashing the throats of your beloved husband and kids, the police will be damn slow getting there. Don’t count on them. Instead, expect them to pull up – sirens a blarin’ – right AFTER you’ve disposed of the bad guy yourself.

#2) People get inexplicably weak around the evil-energized kid: Watch and you’ll see how the evil seed has this strange power over everyone, including adults. It’s like a paralyzing power. The demonic offspring manipulates so well that everyone is put in a state of complete unguarded-ness, and when the little devil comes a killin’, no one can fight him/her off.

The strongest man in the world could end up tackled by some gaunt, 106-pound Russian girl like Esther, and he won’t be able to do anything about it. Esther doesn’t take steroids. She hasn’t been trained in tactical takedowns or martial arts maneuvers. And despite her rather oddly shaped head as seen on the movie advertisements, she’s not an alien. Nope. Everyone just goes limp when she decides to attack!

#3) The children keep secrets: This is the most annoying, teeth-grinding, infuriating of all things that happen in horror movies—the kids keep detrimentally important information to themselves right until the end! This doesn’t often happen in real life.

If one deranged sibling takes a knife to the throat of another and threatens to kill them if they share x or y secret, they’ll pretend to cooperate and then run to mom and squeal when they’re out of danger. But in horror movies, the kids never talk. The wicked child of Lucifer can start their own Holocaust right under everyone’s noses and threaten their brother/sister to make sure they keep a lid on it, and the kid will be hush-hush until there are snowball fights in Hell. It won’t be until tons of lives have been lost and others ruined when the little baby-cakes breaks down and starts talking. If only they’d have opened their mouths on time, it would have saved us all the trouble.

Orphan is devious, dark, and at times, on the right track towards being an effective thriller—until it loses itself in the backwaters of bad writing. That is a shame, considering the nicely selected actors and actresses that fit well the roles they were given. Still, Orphan’s appeal will score high on a lot of scales. I say, this one has “cult classic” written all over it.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Summation: A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who exhibits menacing tendencies.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Vera Farmiga “Kate Coleman,” Peter Sarsgaard “John Coleman,” Isabelle Fuhrman “Esther,” CCH Pounder “Sister Abigail,” Jimmy Bennett “Daniel Coleman,” Margo Martindale “Dr. Browning,” Karel Roden “Dr. Värava,” Aryana Engineer “Max Coleman”
Genre: Drama / Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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