After more than 30 years, Linda Blair's performance in 'The Exorcist' and Harvey Stephens' in 'The Omen' still rank as the best 'evil kids' on the big screen. And anytime you see those films again you wonder if anyone will ever knock them off the podium. The latest challenger is 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman.
She plays Esther, an orphan who is adopted by Kate and John Coleman (Farmiga and Sarsgaard). They lost their third child before birth, and with Kate a recovering alcoholic, they feel that the addition of a new member to the family is the right way to look to the future. But no sooner has the super-bright Esther arrived than things start to go very wrong - for Kate and John, their other two children and anyone else who gets in her way.
While Fuhrman gives it a good go, Blair and Stephens don't have anything to worry about just yet. 'Orphan' is, however, watchable schlock and director Collet-Serra has grasped certain lessons which other directors were asleep at the back for in horror/chiller school. For a start he's got a decent cast - young and older - to work with - Farmiga and Sarsgaard should be doing better films than this but they're still good as the couple whose simmering resentment boils over. He also builds up to the Esther-orchestrated mayhem very well, making the most of the winter setting, the family home, the sibling rivalry and sprinkling the odd bit of black humour here and there. Once Esther unleashes the fury it all gets very silly, of course, and perhaps 'Orphan's biggest failing is that Collet-Serra should've played up the mindgames even more and not resorted to have-hammer-will-pummel.
But to his great credit, you might not see the twist coming - just how often do you say that about a frightener these days?