"Orphan" is a persuasive addition to the subgenre of bad-seed-horror films like "The Omen" where a creepy little kid wreaks havoc and murder on the lives of ill-equipped adults. The real child of hell here is nine-year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a charming orphan of Russian descent whose induction into the wealthy family of John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) allows for more than a few shocks of tragic violence and some very uncomfortable familial manipulation. Kate's recent miscarriage of a daughter inspires the couple to bring an adopted girl to join their 10-year-old son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and their hearing-impaired six-year-old daughter Max (Aryana Engineer). Kate is a recovering alcoholic whose drinking almost cost Max's life near their well appointed lakeside house. Despite Esther's polite demeanor and undeniable artistic gifts--she paints expressive pictures and makes up captivating stories to go along with them--a spate of bizarre events makes Kate suspect that Esther is a source of trouble. Director Jaume Collet-Serra redeems himself after his disastrous "House of Wax" with a genuinely scary movie ramped up by a truly inspired plot twist.
(Warner Brothers) Rated R. 120 mins. (B+) (Four Stars)
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