The scares are cheap, the laughs mostly intentional and the ending a real lulu in Orphan, the latest from the director of House of Wax.
Violent, overlong and overtly sexual, Orphan is a parental nightmare painted in standard horror strokes. It feels too slow and moody for the Halloween crowd and too absurd and silly for more discriminating horror fans.
Vera Farmiga revisits her Joshua role (Mom suspects her child is a monster) but isn’t at her best playing Kate, a mother grieving from a stillbirth. A pianist with two kids — the insolent 10-year-old Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and deaf 5-year-old Maxine (Aryana Engineer) — Kate is still on medication and she and her architect-husband, John (Peter Sarsgaard), keep a floral tribute to the stillborn “Jessica” in their home. Yet Kate’s shrink (Margo Martindale) believes they’re ready to adopt.
And whom do they settle on? Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a solitary Russian-accented angel with a serious, wise-beyond-her-9-years demeanor. Why hasn’t she found a home? “I guess I’m different.”
Farmiga, despite her Joshua practice, never gets across Kate’s fear and alarm. The family dynamic here offered fertile ground for real world horror, but the script and Catalan director Jaume Collet-Serra give away the game too early. He reveals the child as a monster straight out. Between close-up jolts and loud shock sound effects, he does a decent job of laying out the clues. Virtually every over-the-top laugh makes a certain amount of sense by the time we finally reach the formulaic finale.
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra.
Screenwriters: David Johnson, Alex Mace.
Producers: Leonardo Di Caprio, Susan Downey, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Joel Silver.
A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 123 minutes. Disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language. Playing at area theaters.