25 October 2010


Twelve Things about Orphan

12. Yes, I can appreciate non-Slashers. =P Once in a while, it's good to watch some "highbrow" Horror with actors who are no longer just trying to break into Hollywood.

11. Do you remember the classic scary short about the woman who always wears a ribbon around her neck . . . until the night her husband decides to take it off her while she sleeps? (Just in case you don't, I won’t spoil it for you. Go camping, wait for dark, and get someone to tell you this story by the fire.) I was already okay with the way this movie was striking that basic note, with the ribbons on Esther's neck and wrists . . . so I was floored at the revelation of other "bands" she wears and the secrets they hide.

10. On the other hand, I'm not too easy about the fate of a certain character. A regular diet of Slashers means I am used to characters dying because they "deserve" it; but in Orphan, the horror comes from the fact that all the deaths are completely undeserved.

9. Isabelle Fuhrman is an amazing actress. She owns the role of Esther, the Russian orphan with dark secrets.

Vera Formiga, the actress playing the mother, is equally good in a role that does not require her to be as formidable. Yes, she is often upstaged by her younger co-star--but it's a perfect parallel to the household dynamics once Esther comes and decides Kate must go.

8. The Chinese character for "trouble" is (reportedly) a combination of smaller symbols that mean "three women in one house." Orphan is just the latest movie to convince me that you really only need two.

Before this, there were The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (Mother vs. Nanny), The Tie That Binds (Adoptive Mother vs. Birth Mother), Fatal Attraction (Wife vs. Mistress), and Aliens (Queen vs. Ripley). There can be only one queen bee in a hive--and the Horror genre knows it.

Anyone want to join me for my
Mother's Day Movie Marathon
next year? ;-)

Films like these require filmmakers to cast two completely different but equally compelling actresses to duke it out. Anne Archer vs. Glenn Close is probably as good as it's ever going to get (and not just because Visual Effect vs. Sigourney Weaver can't really count); so I'm not even going to compare Formiga vs. Fuhrman to them.

7. What is your stand on adoption? I know I'd love to take it at face value: a family with love to spare opening their hearts to a child who needs a home—a win-win situation, if you can find the right fit. There are many real-life stories about successful adoptions: I love reading or watching these, too; they touch my heart.

But then there are the Horror movies, which come from the dark, creative place in our minds where imagination meets the sixth sense that knows when something is not right. I remember being really upset at The Tie That Binds when it first came out. One of the actors described it as a “worst case scenario” of what might happen after you adopt a child. (Her birth parents might track you down and try to kill you.) I imagined many prospective adoptive parents changing their minds after seeing it and many children doomed to orphanages and foster care, and I was upset.

Well, as usual, Horror got it right and I got it wrong. Did I really think that a couple who could be put off by a movie had any business adopting a child, anyway? That film probably did all those "doomed" children a favour. This one, being more obviously a Horror offering, does everyone one better. For as lovely as adoption is, it’s true that many children bring their heavy baggage along with them--and that unexpected elements in any newcomer's past can shake a family to its very foundations.

But we already know this. If we don't, then why is the demand always highest for infants?

6. Also on the list of things I’d like to take at face value: children. I dare say no more . . .

5. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have understood the children in this family. When they see that Esther is hurting people and hiding the evidence, why don’t they just tell someone?

Today, I know their reasons: the fear that they will not be believed (and then possibly punished) and the unusually mature desire to protect their parents. But when children are desperate enough to act like adults, it’s not a good thing.

4. I think I found a plot hole!!! Not to reveal any spoilers, but . . . If you were determined to cover up your past, would you carry around something bearing the name of a place you used to live in?

3. Another question! If a nine-year-old girl who broke her ankle on the playground claimed that your perfect, angelic little child had deliberately pushed her, with the intent to hurt her, would you believe it? (Really?)

2. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned Esther’s paintings yet! This movie relies heavily on its atmosphere: sombre colours, winter setting, florescent lighting, the memory of a dead child, the phantom-limb pain of an affair. Esther’s bright paintings of animals and towns are often the only bright spots in a whole sequence. So of course they are not at all what they seem.

1. I definitely recommend this movie, if only for the twist in the end. It is precious.

Image Sources: a) Orphan poster, b) The Hand That Rocks the Cradle poster, c) The Tie That Binds poster, d) Fatal Attraction poster, e) Aliens poster


Sullivan McPig said...

Sounds like I should go watch it!

Archistrategos said...

Re: no 11, I remember reading that in a book for kids whn I was in 3rd grade; I've actually blogged about it just a few days ago too hehehe. Possibly one of the most disturbing stories i've ever come across! As for 'orphan', I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. Still, the honor of the most disturbing child-related movie I've seen goes to the 1960 film 'the innocents'. Terrible movie to end the night with, which can only mean it's perfect!

Bethany said...

Problem was, I already knew the twist of this film before I watched it. But I don't think that necessarily ruined it - it just meant that I was looking for hints and pointers, to see how it would reveal itself.

joan said...

hi thanks for vising my blog and entering the contest. I have seen the pictures of your grandmas crocheting she is very talented they look brilliant

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: I definitely recommend it!

Archistrategos: Hi! It's nice to see you again. =)

Yes, I read that story in a book, too . . . and come to think of it, I might also have been in the same grade. (You're not my former next door neighbour Paolo, are you?!?!)

This is the second time someone has recommended The Innocents to me. I hope the chance to see it comes soon.

Bethany: I'd like to watch Orphan again, to see those hints and pointers as well. I wish you had had the full blast of the revelation, but it would have been interesting to watch the movie that other way, too. Besides, you knew about the secret, but you didn't know how it would play out, right?

Joan: Thanks for visiting my blog, too. My grandmother is like the goddess of crochet or something. (Meanwhile, I can only type!) I have my fingers crossed for your contest. =)

Belfry Bat said...

You can also pick at guitar strings alright, so don't be too self-efacing, E.!

titania86 said...

I really like this movie. My boyfriend actually predicted the twist just from the trailers. I was still shocked because it sounded farfetched to me. Anyway, I agree with many of the things you pointed out except that Vera Formiga did a good job. I thought she was super annoying throughout the film and I was totally rooting for Esther all the way.

I don't see the bible as a plothole, but something that Esther keeps to remember the past. It had the place she was before plus the photos. And she appeared pretty religious, so it made sense that she would carry it with her.

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Titania! =) Thanks for your comment!

I find our opposing takes on Formiga's performance interesting--because they don't seem to be all that different! I think your connection to Esther underlines the fact that Fuhrman did upstage Formiga; but on the other hand, I think that suited the story perfectly. If Kate had been less annoying, Esther wouldn't have been so successful.

Yeah, "plothole" was the wrong word for Esther's bible. It does fit her character, but I still think it made the ending a little too easy.

Again, thanks for dropping by!