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Orphan-horror-movies-7084646-1280-1024There are a couple of lines necessary for the success of every Creepy Kid movie. Chief among them: “I have a surprise for you, Mommy!” Why is the line so successful? Because the surprise is never good. A close second is the old, “I don’t think Mommy likes me very much” gag. These lines work because of the juxtaposition of innocence against a malevolent backdrop. In other words, evil children are scary. Orphan, starring Vera Farmiga and    Peter Sarsgaard is the latest Creepy Kid movie to hit the big screen, but is it as disturbing as the classics of the genre like The Omen or Village of the Damned?

The story begins with a heartbreaking loss. John and Kate Coleman (Sarsgaard and Farmiga) are reeling after a miscarriage. The loss has taken a toll on their marriage, which seems about as stable as the bond between that other Jon and Kate we’ve been hearing so much about lately. In an attempt to right their awful situation they decide to adopt a child from a local orphanage. Finding themselves drawn to Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) they welcome the young girl into their home, but as soon as they do strange things start happening. Certain that something is wrong—really, really wrong—with her new daughter Kate tries to convince John that Esther isn’t the little bundle of joy they bargained for. He doesn’t heed her warnings until it is too late.

Orphan has echoes of many creepy kid movies but sets itself apart with (a probably unintentional) sense of camp that permeates its later scenes. It’s the kind of over-the-top dramatics that turned Mommy Dearest from bio pic into giggle fest. Its sense of hysterical fun makes it a good Friday night late show kind of movie with the right audience.

Orphan bills itself as a horror film, and it starts with a bang—well, more of a spurt or a gush, really—but many of the scares aren’t so much scares as they are jolts caused by loud audio cues and red herrings. I call them “booyas,” little unexpected shocks that snap you to attention. It’s a cheap way to get a rise out of people but it does create a bit of tension.

Modigliani beauty Vera Farmiga is effective as the woman on the edge of a breakdown. Peter Sarsguard wins the Least. Supportive. Husband. Ever. Award and has one insane, cringe worthy scene near the end of the movie that I assume he didn’t read before he agreed to take the part. It’s a ridiculous but of overacting but fits the camp feel established by director Jaume Collet-Serra.

The parents are the foundation that holds everything together but the kids are the stars. As younger sister Max Aryana Engineer has mastered the art of the terrified face and Jimmy Bennett as brother Danny has bored teenage boy down to a science but it is Isabelle Fuhrman as evil Esther who steals the show.

She’s a particularly good Creepy Kid, just other-worldly looking enough to be freaky but able to turn on the charm when she needs to. Her facility with Hieronymus Bosch-style paintings and claw hammers are definite signs that something’s not right with the little girl John and Kate invite into their home, but what can you expect when you spend less time deciding to adopt Esther than most people spend deciding on which kind of ice cream to buy.

Esther is a stern mistress who I could see inspiring a drinking game. How about a shot of Jäger every time she gives someone the creepy kid stink eye? You’d be on your butt before the forty minute mark.

Orphan isn’t great but it does provide a few campy laughs and a couple of squirmy scenes.

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