Orphan (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Orphan</strong> (2009)

(On TV, May 2015) Jamie Collet-Serra doesn’t have the name recognition of other directors, but a quick look at his short filmography already reveals a propensity for stylish thrillers with an element of pure madness –an insane twist, tortured plotting, preposterous revelations and/or a healthy helping of Liam Neeson.  Neeson may not be in Orphan, but the film is otherwise right in line with his subsequent Unknown or Non-Stop.  It’s, in some ways, a standard evil-child horror film: After a family adopts a young girl, they come to realize that the girl is evil beyond her years, and that they are all in danger.  So far so good (albeit boo for the anti-adoption agitprop), except for the last-third twist, which turns the film gleefully insane even as it answers the objection “Gee, that’s an awfully precocious hellion!”  The conclusion is purely out of slasher movies, but the rest of the film is generally well-executed, with enough thrills and portentous gloom to keep things interesting.  Isabelle Fuhrman is fantastic as the pint-sized antagonist, whereas Vera Farmiga (who can be unremarkable at times) here scores a gripping performance.  CCH Pounder also makes an impression, even though her role isn’t much more than a disposable expositionary device.  Orphan may be striking because of its twist, but it’s competently made and while it’s not destined to be a classic, it’s a good-enough thriller/hybrid, the likes of which we should see more often.

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