Something’s Wrong With Esther

I had not even heard of Orphan before last week. Well that’s not 100% true: I had seen the poster but I really did not give the film much thought until I saw Roger Ebert’s glowing 3 and a 1/2 star review. I did a bit of Imdb-ing and found out what a strong cast it had: the awesome Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farminga (The Departed) , CCH Pounder (tv’s The Shield). I figured I’d roll the dice.

The film has a very nicely done first half: we are given a sinking feeling in our stomach, dreading the uncomfortable violence about to ensue. Then the film takes a detour to by-the-numbers-Fatal Attraction-rip-off-disposable-crap-ville for the last half hour and we are left feeling gypped. I’m not complaining about the film’s body count (it is incredibly low, though) nor the much talked-about “twist.” I’m talking about the overall feeling that the film switches genre’s in the final act. The audience was watching a flawed-but-tense horror film with moments approaching greatness (particularly the Russian roulette scene, which is down right creepy), and then they have to sit through milquetoast “Hollywood thriller” clichés as Vera Farminga dukes it out with a pint sized Glenn Close for the final moments(complete with pithy one-liners).

It’s like we’re watching two different movies, one of them awesome. The cast performs well and the direction is competent. Everything looks slicker than your average B-picture, and that only adds to the disappointment. The silver lining of me seeing this is that I can point you, loyal reader, towards two “killer kid” movies that you probably missed and are both 10x better than Orphan.

The first is Joshua. If it proves anything it’s that you should NEVER let Vera Farminga near your kids, she’s obviously a bad influence. This movie came out about two years ago and anyone coming to it after Orphan will be in for a serious case of deja-vu: it’s about a young couple whose child is a manipulative and calculated murderer. The similarities don’t end there as the mother is played by none other than VERA FARMINGA(!) this lady appeared in two suspiciously similar killer kid movies a year apart.

All joking aside this movie is what you want to watch if you want a modern “evil kid” movie. It has a slower, deliberate pace that may put off some viewers but strong performances from both Farminga and the great Sam Rockwell along with an absolutely chilling final act make this a must see. It’s a real shame that this movie is so little known, Orphan didn’t exactly clean house at the box office, but it did well. Joshua only played select cities and then was dumped on dvd
. The world we live in, eh?

Our second group of lil’ devils comes from Spain: 1976’s awkwardly-named Who Can Kill a Child? This movie is fantastic, a real hidden classic. When I bring this up in “horror-circles” I am floored by the amount of people who have never even heard of it. If your main gripe with Orphan was that it should have grown a pair, Who Can Kill a Child? will have you eating those words and squirming with discomfort while you do it. Bleak to the nth degree but still very exciting, this film is best described as a zombie movie where the zombies have been replaced with children. To describe it any more would be to spoil it. I don’t know if the Dark Sky disc from a couple years back is still on shelves, but Amazon has it
and it is absolutely worth its weight in gold. The only problem I have with the film is its exploitative use of real archival footage of atrocities perpetrated on children in history. It is sick, pointless and I suspect was only added by the producers to add some faux-emotional weight to the film. Thankfully it is placed before the credits and you can avert your eyes (or, dare I say, press skip on your remote) without missing a thing. But believe me: once the movie-proper starts you will not believe what a gem you’ve been missing.

There you go…three movies. I have to go now, there is work to be done.


One thought on “Something’s Wrong With Esther

  1. God, I don't think I've seen any of those movies. As for “Orphan,” the trailers turned me off because it reminded me of the generic Hollywood thrillers that have disappointed me in the past. Namely, “Hide and Seek” and “The Uninvited.”

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