Thursday, June 23, 2016

Post-Modern Hitchcock Creepy Kids, or Thoughts on Orphan

 Orphan (2009) doesn’t pull any punches and begins with an R-rated bio-horror birth scene straight out of a Cronenberg movie.  From Spanish film director Jaume Collet-Serra of the House of Wax remake (2005, with Paris Hilton!), Non-Stop (2014) and The Shallows (2016) comes the story of an affluent liberal family with an architectural house and 2.5 kids (a horrible joke if you’ve seen the movie, but I couldn’t resist).
Vera Farmiga from Bates Motel and The Conjuring 2 (2016) stars as Kate Coleman, the mom, along with Peter Saarsgard as her husband John.  Recovering from the loss of a child, what could be better than taking in a poor disadvantaged 9-year-old Russian orphan girl?  So what if she’s a little too articulate, looks like one of the Grady Twins from The Shining (1980, as memorably portrayed by real-life twins Lisa and Louise Burns), super-religious and seems remarkably talented, like prodigy-level talented in art?  She’s had a hard life, right?
There’s a nice directorial touch in including a special needs little girl in the family with signage and subtitles, something you don’t encounter too often in American cinema.  Featuring deaf actress Aryana Engineer as Max, who went onto star in Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), they are some of the most sentimental scenes in an intensely psychological thriller with a twisted plot that gets a little Single White Female (1992) towards the end.  There’s a stellar performance by child actor Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther, the little Russian orphan with a secret.  11 at the time, she went on to fight Stephen King’s cell phone zombies in Cell (2016).
The ending is clever, surprising and unexpected, and most importantly, holds up under the scrutiny of multiple viewings.  Watch out for Margo Martindale, Claudia from The Americans, as Kate’s therapist and CCH Pounder from Bagdad Café (1987) and The Shield in full habit as Sister Abigail, who warns that something’s not quite right with Isabelle.

The evil kid genre is popular enough to speculate that it caters to some vague parental passive-aggressive wish fulfillment.  Orphan is reminiscent of The Good Son (1993) with Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, Hard Candy (2005) with Ellen Page, the Hitchcock classic Rope (1948) and Compulsion (1959) with Orson Welles.  All of these movies play around with the murderous child archetype and the conflicting parental emotions surrounding their actions.  


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.