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A movie with a child will typically catch the eye of any viewer. With that being even movies with devilishly dark children on the negative side. Orphan, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and released in 2009 by Dark Castle Entertainment, is a horror film about a young girl who gets adopted from an orphanage but turns into something no one would have suspected. Though some may find it disturbing, this film succeeds because it pushes viewers buttons, drags people in with cynical manipulation of public opinion, being shameless, portraying realistic views of illnesses and having an appalling plot twist near the end.
John (Peter Sarsgaard) and Kate (Vera Farmiga) Coleman are the parents of Max (Aryana Engineer) and Daniel (Jimmy Bennett). They all lived in a beautiful home together awaiting the day Kate was supposed to bring another child into the world. Kate ended up having issues and the baby passed away. John and Kate decided to go to the orphanage nearby see about adopting another child. The 2 found nine-year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) and ended up adopting her. Esther commits many vigorous acts while manipulating many people to think she’s innocent. She eventually gets caught by Kate realizing she isn’t as innocent as others think; Kate ends up killing Esther.
How it works
When the film begins to push the viewer’s buttons, they become more intrigued in finishing the movie or continuing to watch it. Multiple things occur that would keep the audience on edge. Starting off with Kate losing her child and having vivid dreams about the tragedy. Since the dreams Kate was having appeared so vividly, it really brought this moment to attention. Another example would be when Esther starts to get close to daughter Max; trying to manipulate her into doing unlawful things that are particularly gruesome to a young child such as Max. Bringing it all together, Max is deaf, so she is unable to hear most things around her without her hearing aids that provide her with precisely small noises. Esther ends up killing a bird, that Daniel had first shot with his paintball gun, in front of Max and Daniel: but she does it in a non-vigilant way. Daniel and Max are both stunned after what just happened but don’t tell anyone. Esther takes Max with her everywhere she goes so she can see the things she does to others. The time Esther brought Max with her to the bridge after the nun visited with the parents, would be a time most viewers would be on edge about. Esther pushed max into the road in front of the nun as she was driving back to the orphanage. The nun almost hits Max but abruptly stops in time as she then gets out to see if Max is okay. Esther cracks a hammer atop the nun’s head knocking her to the ground and repeatedly hitting her more afterward. Max is in shock crying and not sure what to do as Esther threatens her with things if she doesn’t hit the nun with the hammer as well. One of the edgiest moments was when Esther starts becoming more violent and careless. As Esther gets back home from the hospital with only Max and John, she goes out of control. She finds a gun in the safe and brings it into the living room where John was resting. John had been drinking so isn’t fully aware of things as Esther is trying to seduce him. Since John declines her sexual measures after coming to of the situation at hand, Esther ends up shooting him multiple times in front of Max. Kate is on her way home realizing something is wrong. Max runs away trying to get away from Esther but from her being deaf and without her hearing aids, it’s hard for her to know when Esther is nearby. Kate ends up getting into a huge altercation with Esther after Kate had been shot and brutally hurt already by Esther. When Kate gets away with Max, she eventually kills Esther after multiple suspenseful moments with viewers on the edge of their seats wondering who was going to win the battle.
Social media is increasingly becoming a platform for information of any kind. Things such as click bait or gratification with interests. Along with pushing the viewers’ buttons, this film also uses cynical manipulation of public opinion. Movies with things that a larger variety of people are interested in are the genres of choice. This film being a horror movie adding a child killer brings back to what was mentioned previously. Many people are interested in these types of movies because they’re intriguing and interesting: as well as suspenseful. Esther commits heinous acts upon others whether the outcome is fatal or just disturbing. One of the times was when she pushes a younger girl off the playground equipment because the girl picked on her at school. The girl ended up with broken ankles and cracked ribs. Max watched Esther during this incident as well as previous ones before. Esther kills 2 people throughout the film such as the nun and John but also tries killing Kate and Daniel: she doesn’t succeed in doing so.
To show some attention grabbers along with killer kids, the movie Orphan shows a lot of shameless actions taking place throughout it. It all starts when Esther has no emotions when she beats the bird with the stone in front of Max and Daniel. From there she commits countless acts of violence, verbal abuse, and manipulation. Esther tries playing Russian roulette with Max laughing the whole time and laughs after pushing the girl off the playground equipment as mentioned earlier. There’s no remorse in her after she hurts Kate’s feelings when she picks the flowers from the garden Kate told Esther not to touch. She knew the flowers were for Kate’s deceased child but picked them carelessly. Esther has no shame in doing anything she pleases if she comes out to be the sweet innocent little girl, in the end, making everyone else look bad. One main point to her shameless acts is when she repeatedly makes Kate seem crazier and crazier every day. Kate almost losing her children and John had no effect but happiness to Esther.
In this movie, it is easy to tell Esther has many problems. Many times, the writers show aspects of mental and physical illnesses in her. Esther is psychotic, manipulative, a serial killer, and has been diagnosed with hypopituitarism which makes her do the things she does. With her being psychotic she basically has no control in her emotions and goes out on a limb if things don’t go her way. She constantly manipulates people to think of her differently or do things she wants them to. In her past, she already had murdered 7 people adding on 2 more by the end of the movie; almost killing 2 others as well. Since Esther has hypopituitarism, she is able to age mentally but not physically. When other people see her, they think she looks like a young girl but that’s only because of her dwarfism. She poses to be a 9-year-old girl, so she can get into happy families with a husband and wife. From there she does anything she can to turn the husband against the wife.
With Esther posing as a 9-year-old and being manipulative with her hypopituitarism, she thinks she is unstoppable. The movie does well in having a plot twist that catches the viewers off guard. Esther starts to break the family apart thinking that her plan is going exactly how she wants it to. After she gets John alone, she tries seducing him which doesn’t go well. She runs to her room crying from being rejected and takes off her makeup as well as her fake teeth. Esther is really a 33-year-old woman who had been through traumatic things growing up. She ends up killing her father since he told her she could never be a “real woman”. From there she went to a mental hospital but escaped to become a prostitute. After getting caught and arrested doing that, she would go on to say she was a child prostitute, so they couldn’t charge her; instead, taking her to the orphanage where everything began to unravel.
Orphan is very similar to some other movies involving killer kids. The movie The Good Son has the same beginning with a young child named Henry moving into a family’s home just with different circumstances. Henry befriends his cousin, who is the same age, and begins showing high amounts of violence and psychopathic behaviors, like Esther, was doing. He kills a dog shamelessly laughing as well. Just like Esther, Henry tried getting his cousin to do things he didn’t want to and manipulating people. In this movie, The Good Son, the ending is just as mind-boggling as Orphan’s was. The 2 movies have succeeded so well because of intriguing aspects they bring into them. Killer kids and thrillers have been genres to attract a high population of viewers for decades.
Some may say some scenes are “too gory” or “too violent” but that is one reason for it to succeed as fairly as it has. Without these scenes, there would be no empathy for the family or resent towards Esther with her wrongdoings. Movies use these types of vulgar acts to draw in more attention as well as truly depicting on what is happening at the moment. If they don’t add in vulgar scenarios, the audience won’t be able to understand as much as they should. There may be moments in this movie that could be taken out and still make it as interesting, except if this had been done, the plot wouldn’t be as ‘thick’ as it was.
Despite the positive things mentioned about this movie, Steve Newton of EarOfNewt.com has something else to say. Newton states that the movie Orphan has a “painfully predictable storyline” and is “bent way out of shape by a preposterous plot twist that will leave horror fans shaking their heads in sadness and disbelief that their beloved genre could sink so low.” This review is seemingly true indicating how easy it was for the audience to assume what would happen next. Saying the plot twist is “preposterous” might need to be extenuated. The ending was not one to expect in wondering why Esther was the way she was. Throughout the movie, there was little to no background is given on who she was which made this plot twist harder to expect. Agreeing with the predictability, it’s easy to say that most movies are indeed predictable at different points.
From the beginning of the movie to the end, Orphan always had a way to keep its viewers intrigued and interested. With the extensive details and Esther’s perpetual acts, this movie defines what horror films are grossly about. Although Orphan isn’t the most successful horror movie produced, it has made its way to be a well-known movie despite the good or the bad.
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