Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Killer kid movies are nothing new. "The Bad Seed" back in the 50s started it all, and in 1992 there was the minor cult classic "Mikey", which starred the little kid from TV's "Family Ties". It was a cool direct-to-video release (way back before there were DVDs), with Mikey proving to be quite adept at dishing out vicious punishments to those who cross him. I actually own it on video, as I'm not aware of any DVD release as yet. Starring Josie Bissett before she went on to "Melrose Place", Ashley Laurence from the "Hellraiser" movies and Mimi Craven, wife of horror director Wes, it's worth a watch.

Anyway, 1993 saw "The Good Son" released, which was Macauley Culkin's attempt at breaking out of kiddie roles. It didn't work - he stopped acting the following year. Another decent movie. 1994 had the direct-to-video offering "The Paperboy", which starred Alexandra Paul during her stint on "Baywatch". And 1996 gave another direct-to-video killer kid in "Daddy's Girl", probably the weakest out of this lot. If there have been any other killer kid flicks since then (other than the "Children Of The Corn" movies), they don't immediately come to mind, which means they probably weren't very memorable in the first place.

So it's good to see the sub-genre get another work-out in "Orphan", which I saw at the movies a couple of nights ago. Yes, it even got the big-screen treatment! Here, a married couple (Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt after an upsetting stillbirth. They settle on Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a 9-year-old from Russia. She wears old-fashioned clothing, is very well-spoken, and wise beyond her years. The eldest son (Jimmy Bennett) doesn't take to her, but Esther seems to bond with the youngest child (Aryana Engineer), who is deaf. Of course, the viewer knows Esther is batshit crazy, but it's fun watching as the family members eventually catch up. Only Sarsgaard remains hopelessly clueless.

"Orphan" really goes for the jugular and doesn't hold back. Although not fast-paced like a slasher flick or action movie, this one still had audience members literally running out of the cinema when they needed a toilet break, just so they didn't miss anything. Esther doesn't bat an eyelid, whether it be dropping the "f" bomb, or killing a nun with a hammer and making her poor deaf sister help hide the body. It just gets more and more crazy as it goes along, culminating in a loopy twist that, while deliciously over-the-top, somewhat undermines the jaw-dropping audaciousness that had come before it. Nevertheless, I had a blast. "Orphan" has strong acting, decent boo scares, genuine suspense (Esther's new siblings are frequently on her hit list), and wacky surprises.

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