Film Review: This 'Orphan' Is a Cynical, Shameful Failure

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's hard to know where -- and with whom -- to begin when assessing the depraved, worthless piece of filth that is "Orphan," a high-gloss horror show about a well-meaning couple who bring home a 9-year-old girl to join their family, only to discover, way too late, that she's a homicidal psychopath.

Surely writers David Leslie Johnson and Alex Mace deserve their own circle of hell for thinking up the story, which moves with breathtaking cynicism from disturbing to grotesque to perverse to ludicrous. Director Jaume Collet-Serra ("House of Wax") gets a shout-out for hyping up a worthless script with slick visuals and jumpy fake-outs. Both Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga are apparently in desperate need of a paycheck -- otherwise how to explain lending their considerable talents to such rank exploitation? Oh, and what have we here: None other than Leonardo DiCaprio is listed as a producer of "Orphan," proving that his concern for the environment clearly doesn't extend to poisoning the culture.

In fact, the only people who should escape unscathed from "Orphan" are the three young actors who play Farmiga and Sarsgaard's children, adopted and biological. The sadistic violence, symbolic incest and flirtation with pedophilia in the film -- not to mention its shameless perpetuation of toxic stereotypes surrounding the adoption of older children -- leads one to think their work on this film wasn't employment so much as child abuse.

Finally, let's hear it for those fearless executives at Warner Bros., currently bloated like engorged ticks with billions made from Batman and Harry Potter, for using all the time, talent and treasure at their disposal to put out bilge like this. Their lust for money, apparently, is exceeded only by their contempt for the suckers who keep on forking it over. Shame on them all, every single one.

-- Ann Hornaday

Orphan R, 123 minutes Contains disturbing content, sexuality and profanity. Area theaters.

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