It's hard to understand why some people just don't enjoy a movie you enjoy, Orphan is one of the more recent movies to get highly divided views and it's sad since there is a good film here. The DVD is ridiculous, especially if you're renting, but the story is enough that you should more than check it out and see if it appeals to you.
Kate (Vera Farmiga) is coping with the death of her stillborn daughter and a depression that drove her to alcoholism, endangering other daughter in the process. Eventually her and her supportive husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt an older child, and that's where they meet Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). Esther dresses differently, talks with a Russian accent, and forms a close relationship with her new little sister Max (Aryana Engineer) who is deaf. When people start getting hurt in bizarre accidents, especially those who Esther doesn't like, Kate starts to think something is wrong but face opposition from those who think she's merely crawling back into the bottle.
There's a lot of layers to this movie, considering on the surface it's supposed to be your typical evil-kid film. Yes Esther is evil, but the movie takes a lot of different horror movie conventions and adds some real heart and depth to them. Kate and John are a genuinely loving couple who have suffered a terrible loss. That could have been the only factor but we get in glimpses and dialogue that Kate turned to drinking and almost killed Max while drunk. It allows the audience to connect with Kate and realize some people don't bounce back like movies show. The other unique factor is little Max, a role beautifully played by the adorable Aryana Engineer. Max could have been the sweet, innocent girl who is trapped under Esther's spell, but director Jaume Collet-Serra takes things a different route by making Max deaf. Engineer herself is deaf and she expertly conveys so much emotion with no words. The way she turns her body or just looks at her family, conveys twenty times more emotion and fright than any dialogue. Hopefully this little girl goes on to act more because she is a fantastic talent. As evidenced, the family is already hanging by a thread, and Esther is merely the push that gets everything rolling. This isn't to say the evil-kid story doesn't work, but it seems more than it usually is by taking into account the family's history. Isabelle Fuhrman is solid as Esther, the only issue is these types of characters have limited range, merely being cute and menacing.
Orphan is far from perfect and that's due to it being a rehash of every other movie in this genre. Peter Sarsgaard and Jimmy Bennett are mainly used to round out the family. Sarsgaard is necessary for the plot but he seems very wooden, it's evident this isn't his strongest acting to date. His character is also extremely forgiving, making him look a bit creepier than he should be. Bennett just does his usual schtick of whimpering and trying to be the tough older brother. In terms of story there is a lot of plot issues, mainly involving how obvious Esther becomes and yet no one believes her of being a killer. Kate herself does a lot of things that are immediately thrown aside as being the ramblings of a drunk, this is highly ridiculous in a scene in the hospital where she's forced under sedation. In re-watching this after seeing it in theaters, the twist that leads into the ending will either interest you or repel you. If you watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit the ending will seem ripped from that series, and irritate you. The movie also seems to end twice, once with a straight-forward ending, and then a prolonged fight scene that seems unnecessary.
There's supposed to be deleted scenes on the standard DVD but my rental copy had nothing so it might purely be a buy feature. That's apparently all that's on the DVD, four deleted scenes. The Blu-Ray has the scenes and a featurette, again nothing too compelling to get you to buy. A gripe is that the movie has about twenty previews before the movie, and unfortunately the only way to pass these is to fast-forward (you're unable to hit menu or use the skip feature). Considering there's no added material it's irritating that the previews can't be skipped.
Overall, Orphan is good, nothing more or less. There's plot gaps and some overacting but nothing that you won't find fun if you're a horror buff. Collett-Serra doesn't pander to typical horror conventions and adds some true complexities to the family so even if you're not a horror fan, you can still enjoy the family fighting against evil. The DVD is pointless so rent if you're a first-timer and only buy if you think you'll watch this more than once. The movie gets a 3/5 and the DVD gets a 1.5/5.