A good-hearted couple adopts a little girl and then very bad things start happening to their family and those around them. The mystery and trail of dead bodies seems to lead back to the little girl; but none of them suspects the strange secret that she is hiding in the suspenseful thriller directed by Barcelona-born filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra. Here's a look at Orphan.
|"My name is Esther."|
|"Why aren't you down at the party?"|
|"I've never really seen the point of it. I guess I'm different."|
|"There's nothing wrong with being different, you know."|
Nine-year-old Esther came from Eastern Europe and wound up in an American orphanage. That's where she meets Kate and John, who have two children and want to adopt another. Polite and artistic, prim and proper and, perhaps, a bit old-fashioned, Esther seems to be the ideal choice.
But what starts out as idyllic soon turns dark and deadly, with Esther manipulating Danny and Max - the two other children - and then driving a wedge between parents John and Kate.
Twelve-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman stars as Esther.
"I really had to prepare and think about who Esther is and who this conflicted character is," Fuhrman explains, "because she does not think that she is the bad guy. She thinks she is in a world that everyone hates her and she is just in the middle and thinks that the world should be punished for that mistake."
|"The orphanage has never heard of her. Everything about her could be a lie. Everything."|
|"We have her passport. We have a birth certificate, school records and medical records."|
|"John, these are papers from half-way around the world."|
Peter Sarsgaard plays John and believes the character's response to adversity is typical for a father.
"I would rather for something to go away without talking about it than for something to go away with talking about it extensively," he explains. "So I definitely identify with the '…can't we just instead of talking about everything just flip a switch …and we know we all love each other and it's fine.' I think because of that and because she is our adopted daughter you certainly make a lot of allowances for everyone's bad behavior. I make allowances for her bad behavior; I make allowances for my own bad behavior. I'm fully aware that we don't have to be perfect or even close to perfect. Maybe we can be awful as a family, but I have this feeling that we love each other so it shouldn't matter. Why don't we just be happy and exist in this slightly uncomfortable place."
Vera Farmiga co-stars as Kate who has the first suspicions that all may not be right with little Esther.
"This is an already dysfunctional family bringing a child into a family that is now all the more dysfunctional," she says. "My character, as much as Peter's, just wants to put Band-Aids over bullet holes."
Director Jaume Collet-Serra credits his cast and the intricately woven story with helping elevate Orphan above the usual horror-thriller fare.
"The characters are very well-developed," Collet-Serra notes. "Their back-story is very important to the movie and it comes back to haunt them later …and there are the fears that we all have in our daily lives. That's what makes it really scary. I think people can relate to the characters and the story."
Veteran horror movie producer Joel Silver believes all the pieces come together to make a good …good and scary …film.
"I just think that it's a good story …a creepy story …that affects you and I think as you watch it kind of grabs you in a couple of ways that you don't really see coming;" Silver says, "and it's not a conventional horror movie because I think there is more meat there. I think people get sucked into the story and they don't realize something is going to happen that is going to shock them."
And producer Silver pleads with critics not to give away what that something shocking is.
"I would like to challenge you guys to not tell the twist," he says. "It is really great to have a movie with a twist in it that you don't see coming. Look, I don't think it is not enjoyable even if you know it or have heard about it, but I think it would be fun to try to experience it yourself."
|"It is always better to burn the evidence. If they find these things, they won't just be coming for me."|
|"Wait, what are you doing?"|
Orphan also features hearing-impaired actress Aryana Engineer as the couple's youngest daughter, who is deaf. C.C.H. Pounder plays the nun who runs the orphanage. The screenplay is by David Leslie Johnson from a story by Alex Mace. The producers include matinee idol Leonardo DiCaprio.