Orphan – A film review by Daniel Prinn – An effective and chilling psychological thriller

Orphan

Release Date: July 24, 2009

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Stars: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Runtime: 123 min

Tagline: There’s something wrong with Esther.

 

This is definitely the best film I’ve seen from director Jaume Collet-Serra (the other two being Unknown and the House of Wax remake).

When a married couple with multiple problems lose a child in the womb, they set out for something to fill the missing part of their relationship at a local orphanage. They find Esther, and she seems like a really sweet little Russian girl. They bring her home and, eventually, bizarre and vicious occurances start happening, where Esther seems to always be there. Kate is the only one who seems to see Esther for sinister colours, and must expose her before it’s too late.

This movie is a rather orignal horror/thriller that has great twists and turns, and is a real treat for horror and mystery lovers, as it brings something fresh to the genre. It has wicked suspense and is very creepy, and I liked it a lot. It’s rarely ever boring, and can really keep your attention throughout (for a lot of it), and some scenes you can see some things coming (but rarely). It has some pretty great pacing, though. It really is carried along well enough by some solid performances.

It can be really original, but some of its themes and even scenes were very reminiscent of The Good Son.

*SPOILER, the following explains some scenes in the film*

In this one there’s a scene in the woods where a bird gets shot and in The Good Son; there was a scene in the woods where a dog got shot. There was a person who is believed to be the Person Who Cried Wolf in both: Kate in this one, and no one would believe her because of her expected alcoholism, and in The Good Son; where no one will believe Mark because of the loss of his mother, and everyone thinks it’s a cry for attention.  And the similar psychopathic issues: disturbed, psychopathic, manipulative, cunning and charming.

 *END OF SPOILERS*

 Though, even though how similar they seem to be, this film has more twists and turns and

can be more complex, while Good Son had a simpler plot compared to this. It was better in many ways, and more entertaining. Esther (Orphan) was much creepier than Henry (T.G.S.).

 I don’t see why though that this family would need another daughter, I guess to fill the hole, but they already have enough problems on their hands, why add in a psychopathic child? Though, I love the film’s ability to show the fear that the characters are feeling and other emotions, as well as some of the character’s general ignorance.

This film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman as the show-stealing eerie and troubled Esther, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Margo Martindale and Aryana Engineer.

If you expect a film that’s thoroughly scary, you may not get it because there’s only a few big scares, but it is an effective and chilling psychological thriller.

Orphan is just all thoroughly entertaining and it would be high up there on my list of favourite psychological horror/thrillers. Fans of horror films, creepy stories, mind games of a film,  and good film twists, should really give this one a watch.

80/100

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The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games

Release Date: March 23, 2012

Director: Gary Ross

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Runtime: 143 min

Tagline: The World Will Be Watching.

 

I favor the book.

The film is set in an America which, after a war, has been renamed Panem in the future.  As a cruel reminder to the people of Panem for a past rebellion, two representatives from each district, one male and one female, are chosen to for an annual lottery (where no one in the lower districts will want to win) called the Hunger Games. The Games are a fight to the death, where twenty-three of the twenty-four young teens die, with one lone victor. The Hunger Games is an annual propaganda-based reality TV show favourite, for the people of the Capitol at least. This 74th Annual Hunger Games marks history for District 12, as it got its first volunteer, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss took her sister’s place and it was a noble act, indeed. She must use her hunting skills/wilderness experience and sense of direction to stand a fighting chance to survive.

It’s a really interesting film that uses propaganda as a main theme, and just shows how corrupt the government has really gotten. For the young adult audience, it’s a very fresh idea; but I have heard that this film feels like a big rip-off of the Japanese film that was released in 2000, Battle Royale. I haven’t seen that one, so it won’t taint my view of this film at all, so it felt like a fresh experience.

A lot of it feels like just a youth spin of Gladiator (which I still have to find the time to watch), and the film sort of reminded me of an old Roman thing, bread and circus. The bread means food which the emperor would give to the people of Rome, and the circus meant entertainment.

In this case, the President would give food the people, and that’s what going on here, as the tributes have the option to put their name in numerous times in the raffle as a way to get more food (even though they should be getting more food in the first place, as it is revealed in the second book [I don’t think it’s a really large spoiler] that the people of the Capitol drink this fluid that makes them vomit, so they can stuff their faces even more). The entertainment is most obviously the Hunger Games, which is a reality television show put on for the people of the Capitol, which is really a heinous occurrence which would be pretty bad if it happened in this day and age (granted, it does make for a pretty interesting film [or book] idea).

The film really is quite entertaining and an interesting experience and has a really great ensemble, with a few great characters (that the writers actually want you to connect in any way with) and very intense sequences. There’s some really memorable action sequences, but don’t expect a full-throttle action thriller. Expect a nice adventure flick with a great heroine (push over, Bella!) with some solid action sequences, and lots of adventure and a bit of dramatic science fiction futuristic material.

Okay, some stuff I didn’t like about it. The first is a spoiler and the second is pretty spoiler, but expected.

                                        *SORT OF SPOILER ALERT*         

I didn’t feel there was enough bonding time with Rue to be shared here. Not solid enough character development for her, as in the book.

I don’t see why Collins, like Stephenie Meyer, just had to add in a love triangle. It seems to be that it can’t be a young adult phenomenon without it. It’s very expected, so I didn’t really care for it; but at the same time is effective.

*END OF SPOILERS*

Okay guys, it’s pretty safe to read here. Some other stuff I didn’t dig about the film is that some of the material is a little unclear for those audience members who haven’t read the book, and I didn’t like that aspect of it. I would have thought that the loose ends of the background information would have been better connected with the actual author of the book (Suzanne Collins) having a writing credit for the film.

I feel that the film just needed a bit more violence to be better appreciated; readers could easily handle the violence portrayed in the book, so why couldn’t there be a lot more of it in the actual film? Sometimes young adult’s imaginations can be even more violent than what is portrayed on film, so I just didn’t care for it in that aspect. It couldn’t have even gone for a 14A rating? Or like a really strong 14A rating that could have been secured without going too far as to get an 18A rating? I know it’s a young adult audience, but seriously; more than half of the tributes were killed off screen.

In some ways it’s not an incredible adaptation, it isn’t quite on the same great caliber as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings but outshines (or should I say… out-sparkles? I’m calling you out, Edward) Twilight by great lengths.

I guess this film review, that’s turning into a bit of an essay, should reach its conclusion soon.

It’s a film with a great heroine, great performances (by Jennifer Lawrence especially, who I wish the Academy will be so bold to nominate her for Best Actress; which I doubt will happen), great action/adventure sequences, and a story that offers a fresh enough cinematic experience. The film is a bit lengthy (with the Games starting about 65 minutes into the film), but of course there must be some background  information to be shared here, which could have been better-developed at that. For Oscars, I think the film should get Academy recognition (or at least large award recognition) for its Costume Design, Make-Up jobs especially, and its Cinematography, and even maybe a Best Picture nomination.

The film has a dynamite cast with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead spot, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks (nearly recognizable, except for her voice, as Effie), Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Amandla Stenberg (Rue), Alexander Ludwig (Cato) and Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove; whom I know as the little psychopath from Orphan).

It’s a film with slow pacing at the beginning but gets great when it heats up, has many entertaining sequences, and could have been a better adaptation, as there’s a lot of room for improvement, but is a great experience for both young adults and even some adults can enjoy; and should be enjoyed by those who are willing to accept it for the quite unique adapted experience it offers.

80/100