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Ignore naysayers; Orphan inspirationally good

by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

Orphan
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I guess David Letterman, when he was interviewing Vera Farmiga, one of the stars of the gothic and creepy Orphan, said it best when he said adopting orphans is a good thing, but you just don't want to get hold of a creepy orphan like in the movie. And believe me, this little darling - old-fashioned garb and all - is indeed the stuff that Edward Gorey stories are made of.

Little Esther comes into the lives of two troubled people (Farmiga and Peter Saarsgard, looking sleepy and a little uninvolved, a perfect pairing with hyper Farmiga) who have recently had the wife lose a child in childbirth. The two have finally decided to fill the void with the adoption of another child, something both are a little uncertain about, but both are in agreement upon the fact that this might shake the wife from her postpartum doldrums.

Yet from the moment little Esther (Elizabeth Furhman) is introduced, first through a haunting melody that lures the husband into a solitary room, where the child is painting and singing an eerily adult song, we know something's amiss. Think of the scene in the '80s film classic Ghost Story, where the audience is drawn into a circle of old men, and you get what I'm saying here. And yet, the parents agree to take their new child home, and all seems to be going swimmingly, until the wife starts to notice little things about Esther, like she won't let anyone touch the ancient choker and cuff bracelets, and the child dresses like a Victorian doll and talks and acts much older than she is supposed to be.

Siblings Max and Peter aren't sure about this newcomer either, especially Peter, who resents someone taking his place in his parents' hearts and gaining so much attention from the insecure couple. Soon things are escalating in a scary, out-of-control way, and the whole family seems to be under the spell of this unusual and increasingly unnerving child who no one is able to figure out a background for. And yes, there is the obligatory scene where veteran actor CCH Pounder (playing the part of the nun who helps with the adoption, and head of the orphanage) furrows her brow and we know she's having second thoughts about this little enigma, even as she's just agreed that Esther's just what the couple needs.

Bad things happen, like a hailstorm on steroids, and pretty soon Esther's at the center of what looks like it will be the family's eventual disintegration, even as husband Saarsgard continues to offer lame excuse after lame excuse to forgive this little "bad seed."

This is one of the first horror/thriller films since the atmospheric The Haunting In Connecticut that reassures my faith in Hollywood to be able to make a classic horror film of the caliber of The Haunting (the original, with Claire Bloom and Julie Christie) and the aforementioned Ghost Story. Slick, disturbing and jump-out-of-your-seat scary, this one stayed with me after the credits rolled and inspired me, a budding horror writer myself, with how far some scenes will go to be completely shocking and horrifying in a way that few films are able to be. If you're a fan of the genre, see this one and ignore anything you've read that says this is anything but top-drawer scare action that'll really creep you out.

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