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The tragic loss of their unborn child has devastated Kate and John, taking a toll on both their marriage and Kate's fragile psyche as she is plagued by nightmares and haunted by demons from her past. Struggling to regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives, the couple decides to adopt another child. At the local orphanage, both John and Kate find themselves strangely drawn to a young girl named Esther. Almost as soon as they welcome Esther into their home, however, an alarming series of events begins to unfold, leading Kate to believe that there's something wrong with Esther--this seemingly angelic little girl is not what she appears to be. Concerned for the safety of her family, Kate tries to get John and others to see past Esther's sweet facade. But her warnings go unheeded until it may be too late-for everyone.
For more about Orphan and the Orphan Blu-ray release, see Orphan Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: David Johnson
Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, Karel Roden, Aryana Engineer, Jimmy Bennett, Lorry Ayers
» See full cast & crew
Orphan Blu-ray Review
I wish this wandering waif of a film had never found a home...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 21, 2009
Is there anything more terrifying than parenthood? Haunting every can of nursery paint, every stuffed elephant, every empty picture frame is the overwhelming fear of failure. Expectant women wonder if they'll be more loving, more understanding than their own mothers. Soon-to-be fathers are consumed with visions of babies tumbling out of cribs, obsessed with identifying death traps like electric sockets and curtain cords, and assaulted by feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. Will I be everything they need me to be? Will I let them down? Will I make an irrevocable mistake? Will I one day be faced with a teenager who despises every fiber of my being? Will I raise a monster? It's these nagging, unanswerable questions -- and others exactly like them -- that have given the horror genre some of its finest films. Classics like Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist, and The Orphanage simply would not exist if it weren't for the anxiety that has plagued parents since the first child threw the first temper tantrum. However, it takes a lot more than a creepy kid and a series of brutal murders to tap into such familiar fear. It takes a strong script, solid performances, logical plot developments, involving dialogue, genuine scares, unsettling atmosphere... you know, everything a misfire like director Jaume Collet-Serra's Orphan lacks.
Orphan's premise is as simple as they come. In the aftermath of a tragic loss, Kate (The Departed's Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt a soft-spoken little girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a porcelain-skinned tyke who turns out to be a heartless, vindictive terror. But Esther isn't the spawn of Satan or the offspring of some devious demon. No, she hails from Hollywood's go-to cinematic hellhole: Eastern Europe, a place filmmakers desperately want us to believe is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Esther finds an ally of sorts in the Coleman's deaf daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer, turning in one of the film's only effective performances), but develops an antagonistic relationship with their son (lil' James T. Kirk, Jimmy Bennett) and every other neighborhood tot, none of whom pull their mothers or fathers aside and say, "hey, there's this crazy killer kid hanging out at the playground." Even when Kate begins to suspect something isn't quite right with the latest addition to her family, she doesn't do much more than peak in Esther's dresser, dance around tough questions, and casually investigate some of the girl's more peculiar habits. God forbid she invade her daughter's privacy. Of course, by the time she realizes what sort of monster she's invited into her home, it's far too late.
Esther's madhatter meltdowns aside, it's first time screenwriter David Johnson's script that poses the single greatest threat to the Coleman family. His dialogue occasionally sent me into fits of laughter, his pacing and plotting need serious streamlining, and his themes lack legitimate development. Even if you overlook the derivative nature of the story and the predictable staging of each scenario, Johnson's screenplay is a mess. We know Esther has something to hide: the sashes she keeps cinched around her neck and wrists are beacons of insanity. We know she's one step away from slitting everyone's throat and disappearing into the night: her leers and stares are telltale warnings of the rage brewing beneath her sweet exterior. We know she doesn't belong: her old-world garb and stilted accent aren't just from another century, they make her far more noticeable than a person in her position would ever want to be. But do John and Kate (I'm doing my best to resist a "Plus 8" joke) react accordingly? Of course not. And Collet-Serra? The director seems all too eager to showcase the weaker aspects of Johnson's script. With a two-plus hour runtime, Orphan isn't just bloated and overwrought, it borders on pretentious and self-indulgent. Worse still, it crawls along like a toothless corpse, gumming dull scares and pawing wide-eyed close-ups, offering nothing new, nothing intriguing, nothing worth our time at all. Scratch that. Collet-Serra's surreal, nightmarish opening does manage to conjure up some startling, Cronenbergian visuals, but it turns out to be a spirited start to an otherwise soulless cinematic miscarriage.
But the ending... oh, dear readers, the ending. Orphan wraps up with one of the most laughable, ludicrous, illogical, nonsensical twists that's ever slapped me across the face and left me howling. I could devote an entire review to Johnson and Collet-Serra's ridiculous denouement, much less the manner in which they deliver the reveal itself. Everything from the way the sequence is shot to the sincerity with which it's presented to the small touches Collet-Serra and crew apply to its heavy-handed framework reeks of direct-to-video hilarity. It not only exposes countless plot holes (trust me, the film didn't need any more), it insults its audience's intelligence and demands viewers violently execute, rather than graciously suspend, their disbelief. Come to think of it, Orphan may be worth renting just to see exactly what unfolds in the last twenty minutes. Perhaps if the performances were more poignant (Farmiga and Sarsgaard genuinely give their all, but there's only so much two actors can do), the script was more discerning and resourceful, and the film itself was memorable in the slightest (for something other than its contemptible twist), I might be more forgiving of Johnson and Collet-Serra's missteps. As it stands though, Orphan is a tired, overblown, underwhelming rehash of creepier genre classics.
Orphan Blu-ray, Video Quality
Orphan features a surprisingly strong 1080p/VC-1 transfer that prides itself on striking textures and impeccable detailing. While Jeff Cutter's palette is steeped in under-saturated primaries, subdued hazels, and pale skintones, Warner's presentation is both consistent and capable, perfectly capturing every nick and spatter that graces the screen. Esther's paintings pop in a third act reveal (undermined only by garish blue lighting that threaten the integrity of the transfer), blood boasts a suitably pulpy appearance, and a late-game blaze licks to life with convincing menace. It helps that close-ups and wide establishing shots look fantastic. Every pore on Vera Farmiga's nose is apparent, every sliver of stubble on Peter Sarsgaard's chin is crisp and refined, and every object, near and far, is wonderfully defined (without the assistance of any distracting edge enhancement). Moreover, the picture doesn't exhibit any artifacting, source noise, ringing, or crush. Blacks are deep, delineation is impressive, depth is absorbing, and DNR is nowhere to be found. Honestly, I didn't expect so much visual oomph from such low-rent genre fodder. If you're one of the faithful few who enjoyed Orphan and its wares, Warner's video transfer will make your purchase worthwhile.
Orphan Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like most horror outings, Orphan is largely a quiet, atmospheric affair littered with sudden screams and unexpected bursts of sound. To that end, Warner's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track does a fine job handling extended silences, hushed conversations, and the chaos that occasionally follows in Esther's wake. Dialogue is clean and intelligible, rarely disappearing beneath the roar of raging fires or the thunder of a particularly punchy handgun. LFE output is reserved but weighty, lending power to the film's score and scares. Likewise, the rear speakers are restrained but effective, establishing an immersive soundfield that casually draws the listener in with realistic acoustics, ambience, and pans. Directionality is a tad spotty when Collet-Serra indulges in his inevitable third-act bait-n-switch, but it's fairly precise before and shortly thereafter. All things considered, Warner's lossless track is a solid one that's sure to please anyone who finds something to love in Orphan.
Orphan Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Orphan is extremely light on supplemental content. There's a "Bad Seeds and Evil Kids" featurette (HD, 15 minutes) that offers a generic overview of the film's diminutive antagonist and other nasty kiddies throughout cinema history, and a collection of wisely cut "Deleted Scenes" (SD, 4 minutes), the only notable one being an alternate ending (which, after watching, you won't find to be all that notable).
Orphan Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Disbelief, confusion, stunned silence, outrage, laughter: just a few of the possible reactions Orphan will elicit from genre junkies and casual horror fans alike. Logic is continually tossed out the window, Collet-Serra fails to settle on a tone, and a ridiculous, outright silly plot twist ruins what little Farmiga and Sarsgaard manage to accomplish. Warner's Blu-ray release is better -- a near-perfect video transfer and a confident TrueHD audio track make a valiant effort to save the film from bargain-bin infamy -- but a fledgling supplemental package undermines the disc's technical strides. If you simply must have Orphan in your collection, be patient. I have a feeling frugal Amazon shoppers will be able to nab it for $10 within a few weeks. Otherwise, stick to a rental.
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Orphan Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - October 27th - October 27, 2009
After the unprecedented success of Pixar's 'Toy Story', Hollywood studios recognized the emergence of a new film genre and quickly acquired the equipment and expertise in order to ensure they had a piece of the computer animated cash-cow. One of those moves was ...
• Orphan Blu-ray in Time for Halloween - September 7, 2009
Warner Home Video has set October 27 as the Blu-ray release date of the horror movie 'Orphan', directed by Jaume Collet-Serra ('House of Wax'), about a couple who adopts a 9-year-old girl who may be hiding a secret. The Blu-ray will include a digital copy of the ...
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