Meet Esther. She’s polite, intelligent, paints cute pictures, and ticks all the right boxes – or so Kate and John think when they adopt her following the tragic loss of their third child.
This being Bad Seed territory you just know Esther’s not the little angel she pretends to be and soon bad things start happening. The only witnesses to Esther’s ‘accidents’ are Kate and John’s kids – Max, who’s hearing impaired, and Daniel, who’s threatened with castration if he dares cross his new sibling.
And it’s the kids who are at the heart of this nerve-wracking horror. While I had little sympathy for the selfish Kate (played by Vera Farmiga, who was so brilliant as a tortured Nazi officer’s wife in The Boy with the Striped Pajamas) and her ineffectual husband John (played by Peter Sarsgaard) who seem to want Esther as a replacement for their dead one, I was rooting for Max and Daniel all the way.
Isabelle Fuhrman is chillingly effective as the creepy Esther, while Jimmy Bennett (aka the young James T Kirk in the Star Trek reboot) provides solid support as the troubled Daniel. But it’s Aryana Engineer who really shines here. She’s just perfect as Max, whose inability to communicate makes her an unwilling accomplice in Esther’s acts of violence.
Orphan is the kind of film that, even once you’ve seen the ending, you want to go straight back to the beginning to find out why you didn’t figure it out in the first place. While I won’t give away the shock twist, the filmmakers here have obviously been inspired by Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Argento’s Profondo rosso.