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Movies From the Black Lagoon: Orphan

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Orphan - 2009, Rated R
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

A dysfunctional family opens a whole new can of worms when they adopt the titular psychopath in this horror effort that tastes like a well blended stew of such diverse films as "The Stepfather" and Lon Chaney's classic (silent) crime thriller 'The Unholy Three."
The story finds Kate Coleman wanting another child after losing her third. She and her husband, John, are able to become foster parents despite some heavy baggage (which includes Kate losing her job due to her drinking problem). They visit an orphanage that's having an open house. The children are all happily playing in the main room but John stumbles into the loner, Esther, who is painting pictures all alone on an upper floor. He and Kate appreciate Esther's underdog status and opt to adopt.
Esther turns out to be a rather odd child. Her Eastern European accent can't cover up her mature sentence structure and she rocks old-fashioned clothes that make her look like an escapee from the "Little House on the Prairie". Then there's that weird book she carries around and, let's face it, those pigtails went out with "Pippi Longstockings". Strange things begin to happen to her classmates and new siblings too. A nasty playground incident sees a classmate end up with a fractured ankle but she's actually lucky.
Meanwhile, Kate is slowly figuring out there is a problem with Esther but her baggage is too high for anyone to see over it. John simply doesn't believe there's any evil in Esther. This is despite some strong evidence that includes accidents that almost kill his other two children. Esther turns out to be a sharp study when it comes to "Impression Management". She uses her awkward speech and wears old-fashioned dresses to convince everyone that she's a naive foreigner.
It totally works and she even turns Kate's therapist against her. A nun form the orphanage tries to look into Esther's past but finds that research is impossible to accomplish when you've got a hammer-induced headache. Dad eventually figures out that Esther's not right but that's his last thought before getting repeatedly stabbed by Esther robs him of his reasoning ability. Pretty soon it's down to a duel between Kate and Esther and it's one smack down you don't want to miss as the two duke it out with hammers, knives, and fire arms to determine which one gets to make it till the end credits.
This film works beautifully. It even gets away with an amazing twist that makes it okay for you to cheer the final battle that brutally pits a wounded mom against a knife wielding little girl who really needs a time out-permanently. You have to give this film credit for tackling some sensitive issues in a realistic manor as well. There aren't many dramas, let alone horror movies, that tackle some of the mature content here and it ranges from animal cruelty to sexual impropriety and even includes a chilling moment wherein a young boy is threatened in a very adult manner. You could make entire "Lifetime Network" movies about some of the subjects this film throws out there. The success of this flick all boils down to Esther who is played by Isabelle Fuhrman. It is an amazing performance that makes the film work. Without Fuhrman they don't have a movie but this kid comes through and manages to craft a character so complex that she makes the final plot twist totally believable, despite the fact that it is kind of ridiculous. She is a consummate professional who will be on screen this year in the film adaptation of "The Hunger Games". She holds her own here against seasoned pros like CCH Pounder (as the unfortunate Sister Abigail) and Vera Farmiga, as Kate. All in all this is an excellent slasher flick from the same people who brought you the remakes of "13 Ghosts" and "House on Haunted Hill". Great stuff. The best killer kid character since the "Omen" flicks redefined childcare.
Best Lines: "I don't think Mommy likes me very much."
"Little Bo Peep texted me; she wants her outfit back."
"Stop crying, grab a foot, and help me get her off the road."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to:

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