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Spooktober! Kids Today: Review of Orphan

Happy October everyone!

In honor of this, my most beloved months, I'm trying to watch lots of scaaaary mooovies! The first on my list: Orphan.

**********WARNING!! TONS OF MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!***********

I have to start by saying that about thirty minutes into this movie I realized that I had confused this 2009 release with the 2007 horror flick, The Orphanage. So...I was expecting ghosts. I was a bit disappointed that there are no ghosts in this movie, just a creepy little girl who is not as angelic as she first seems (actually, she doesn't seem angelic at first, either. she seems creepy.)

The movie begins with a horrifying scene of a woman (Vera Farmiga) going into a bloody labor and losing her baby. Of course it was just a dream, though when she wakes up next to her husband (the ever creepy Peter Sarsgaard) we quickly realize that it's a dream based on a past memory. The woman has two other children but wants to adopt a third, though she has a history of alcoholism and depression after losing her third child. Of course she and Peter choose the creepiest child at the orphanage, Ester, who only gets creepier as the movie goes on. Peter doesn't seem to notice how creepy this little girl is, and the movie quickly becomes a Lifetime: Television for Women film in which only the mom knows what's happening and no one will believe her, everyone thinks she's crazy, until it's almost too late...

Here's the crazy twist: the little girl they adopted was no little girl! She was a 30-something-year-old woman who was previously a mental patient and who falls in love with Peter and ends up killing him and almost killing everyone else. Weird, right? She has some convenient form of dwarfism that makes her look like a little girl. But she's not! She's a grown up killer!

I think the movie was much more interesting when she was a little girl who kills people and acts all creepy. The fact that they had to make her an adult who only looks like a little girl is telling of how much creepiness our culture is comfortable with. I think that the idea of a little girl who goes around killing people is too much for most audiences to deal with. Which is too bad, because I like the idea of a creepy child better than a creepy adult who only looks like a child. I also disliked the whole "she's a mental patient!" twist. Is it enough to just say that the reason she's killing people is that she's crazy? Why is she so violent? Why is she crazy? I think this character could have had a lot of depth but none of these issues was really explored. She's crazy: case closed!

I'm really curious about the idea of the child as killer, and why this is so unsettling for us as an audience. I thought about the original Halloween and the opening scene with Michael as a small child. Something about the child as villain is so bone-chilling and shivers-up-our-spines-inducing. Why did this movie have to shy away from that? We find out that Ester is really an adult towards the end of the film, right after she tries to seduce Peter Sarsgaard. This, I think, is very telling. Maybe the child as killer is OK, but the child as sexual being? That goes too far.

Overall I would not recommend this movie (in case I didn't already make that clear). I would still like to see The Orphanage, though.

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  1. Blogger chris | 1:39 PM |  

    No worries, friend; you're not missing much with The Orphanage. Pretty forgettable.

    And speaking of movies with killer kids: we need to have a Good Son party! Now THAT'S a great movie!

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