A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Orphan is a gory horror movie centers on extremely violent, sexual acts carried out by a 9-year-old girl. While the film's ultimate twist negates some of the queasy, sleazy feeling that comes from watching this kind of material, the bulk of the movie revolves around the shock value of seeing a child doing horrible things. Plus, there's lots of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), as well as smoking, drinking, and sexual scenes between adults. Note: This review is of the version of the movie shown in theaters, not the unrated version with an alternate ending available on DVD.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After a miscarriage, parents John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) decide to adopt a third child into their family. Polite, reserved, and formal, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) seems like the perfect addition ... but she soon reveals a manipulative, malevolent side. Is Esther simply trying to fit in and gain a little social advantage in the family, or does she have a darker agenda in mind?
Is it any good?
If Orphan were more exuberant -- a bit more diabolically crazy, a bit more swiftly paced -- it might be fun; as it is, the film bogs down over its two-plus hours. Farmiga and Sarsgaaard are both good -- even if they're forced, by circumstance, to play people far stupider than they are -- but they can't break out of the script's narrow confines. Fuhrman lends a certain chill to Esther's crazier moments, but, at the same time, she's hampered by the story's contortions and weaknesses. Watching Orphan, you can't help but think that what was really needed wasn't an artist's hand on the camera but, rather, an editor's hand applied to the screenplay.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, ORPHAN is clearly trying to follow in the footsteps of other bad-kid horror/thriller efforts like The Bad Seed and The Good Son. But even with the presence of the always-watchable Farmiga and Sarsgaard, Orphan buckles and breaks under the sheer weight of its own excess, piling ludicrous plot hole upon ludicrous plot hole and excuse upon excuse in the pursuit of thrills, chills, and rough, tough action.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it more or less realistic than what you've seen in other thrillers/horror movies? How does that affect its impact?
How do you feel about the fact that a child is the one committing the movie's most horrible acts?
Does the movie's twist let the filmmakers off the hook for some of the more extreme moments?
- In theaters: July 24, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: October 27, 2009
- Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga
- Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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