Tag Archives: horror movies

Horror and Suspense Films

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listed in alphabetical order by name of film

Scary Because It's Possible: The Bad Seed, the Film

Scary Because It’s Possible: The Bad Seed, the Film

#NoSpoilers It's October, and that means it's time for scary movies. When I was young, vampires and ghosts and werewolves usually did the trick. As ...
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To Make Cynics of Us All: Devil, the Horror Film

To Make Cynics of Us All: Devil, the Horror Film

#NoSpoilers There is a long history of stories about humans being influenced or tempted to commit evil by some outside being rather than by their ...
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The Tragedy Doomed to Repeat Itself: The Devil's Backbone, the Film

The Tragedy Doomed to Repeat Itself: The Devil’s Backbone, the Film

What is a ghost? A tragedy doomed to repeat itself time and time again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to ...
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If You Dance with the Devil: 8MM (Eight Millimeter), the Film

If You Dance with the Devil: 8MM (Eight Millimeter), the Film

#NoSpoilers Crime films, frequently inspired by crime fiction, concentrates on criminals, their crimes, and (sometimes) on the detection of those crimes. The famed Noir films ...
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The First Award-Winning Horror Film: The Exorcist

The First Award-Winning Horror Film: The Exorcist

#NoSpoilers Though the word "horror" was not used to describe a film genre until the 1930s, films including supernatural or frightening elements, usually adapted from ...
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Setting the World On Fire: The Girl With All the Gifts, the Film

Setting the World On Fire: The Girl With All the Gifts, the Film

#NoSpoilers Pandora, whose name means either "all-gifted" or "all-giving," was ostensibly the first human female created by the Greek gods. Each of the gods helps ...
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Killing Others To Survive: Identity, the Film

Killing Others To Survive: Identity, the Film

#NoSpoilers The 2003 psychological horror film Identity is not a direct adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1939 mystery novel And Then There Were None, though the plot of Identity is ...
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The Demons Within Us: The Innocents, the Film

The Demons Within Us: The Innocents, the Film

#NoSpoilers I first read The Turn of the Screw when I was ten years old after I learned it was about ghosts, and much of ...
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Coming-of-Age with a Vampire: Let Me In, the Film

Coming-of-Age with a Vampire: Let Me In, the Film

#NoSpoilers The concept of vampires or vampire-like beings — undead who return from the grave and exist by stealing the "life essence" (flesh or blood) ...
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The Plague That Cast the World Into Darkness: Open Grave, the Film

The Plague That Cast the World Into Darkness: Open Grave, the Film

#NoSpoilers I'm going to be honest with you: I don't think much of post-apocalyptic dramas that include zombies. I mean, who's going to root for ...
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When Children Scare You to Death: Orphan, the Film

When Children Scare You to Death: Orphan, the Film

#NoSpoilers This story has been recycled a few times: parents who are longing for another child and also to do good in the world -- ...
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Not For Children: The Horror Film The Orphanage

Not For Children: The Horror Film The Orphanage

#NoSpoilers Of all the horror films I have ever watched or blogged about, The Orphanage (2007) -- written by Sergio G. Sánchez, directed by  JA Bayona, and ...
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The World of the Dead and the World of the Living: The Others, the Film

The World of the Dead and the World of the Living: The Others, the Film

#NoSpoilers Okay, so the lit-tra-chure purists complain that this film, which some say was inspired by Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw, isn't ...
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Slasher-Horror as Art Film: Psycho, the Classic

Slasher-Horror as Art Film: Psycho, the Classic

#NoSpoilers Based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, which was itself loosely based on the story of Wisconsin serial killer ...
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Suspense via Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven, the 2012 Film

Suspense via Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven, the 2012 Film

No Spoilers I'm not sure why the 2012 film The Raven doesn't have at least 9 out of 10 stars on popular reviewing sites because ...
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The World Breaks Everyone: Horror Film Classic Rosemary's Baby

The World Breaks Everyone: Horror Film Classic Rosemary’s Baby

#NoSpoilers The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong in the broken places. Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms It all seems so ordinary ...
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Shutter Island, the Film, Is Shuddery Good

Shutter Island, the Film, Is Shuddery Good

No Spoilers You probably recognize American Film Noir when you see it. Shot in black-and-white with stark lighting and dramatic shadowing, the films explore morality in ...
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You Are Now Entering the Cruel World: Texas Killing Fields, the Film

You Are Now Entering the Cruel World: Texas Killing Fields, the Film

No Spoilers You are now entering the cruel world bridge sign near The Killing Fields Since the 1970s, at least 30 young women and girls ...
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Hansel & Gretel With A Video Camera: The Visit, 2015 Film

Hansel & Gretel With A Video Camera: The Visit, 2015 Film

No Spoilers (okay, there's a couple, but they're not about plot) When I first saw the description for the 2015 film The Visit, written, directed, and produced ...
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Filed under #31DaysOfHalloween, Actors, Classic Films, Films, Films/Movies, Halloween, Horror, Horror Films, Movies/Films, Movies/Television, No Spoilers Review, Psychological Horror, Review, Review/No Spoilers, Science Fiction, Serial Killers, Suspense

When Children Scare You to Death: Orphan, the Film

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This story has been recycled a few times: parents who are longing for another child and also to do good in the world — no, not Angelina and Brad — adopt an older, unwanted orphan from another country — in this case, Russia — and bring her home to the good life in America. Where everything starts to go wrong. Where only one of the parents notices that the orphan is not everything s/he seems. Where the parent who attempts to warn others that something is not quite right with the new family member is dismissed as neurotic or overly stressed or… whatever… so no one believes the warnings.

Though at first glance the story in the 2009 film Orphan might seem a bit trite, the mesmerizing performance of Isabelle Fuhrman as the orphan Esther overcomes any of the film’s predictable weaknesses. Not unreasonably, however, some adoptive parents and adoption agencies objected to yet another film displaying orphans, especially older ones or children from eastern European countries, as dangerous or seriously flawed. But Orphan puts a totally surprising spin on this orphan-who-goes-bad tale so that it becomes an unexpectedly shocking horror film.

Vera Farmiga as Kate, and Peter Sarsgaard as John, in Orphan © Warner Brothers

Why do parents Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard), who already have two children, want yet another child after Kate has a miscarriage? The movie doesn’t make the couple’s longing for more children clear, though it does paint Kate and John with some typical clichés: Kate is a recovering alcoholic who is inexplicably devastated by the miscarriage, John is über-career-oriented and doesn’t seem to notice how unhappy Kate is, so the miscarriage has strained their marriage and they think another child will somehow heal it.

Vera Farmiga as Kate, and Peter Sarsgaard as John, Orphan © Warner Brothers

Their two children already seem like quite a handful for parents to handle:

Jimmy Bennett as Daniel, Orphan © Warner Brothers

Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) tends to do some unpleasant things with homemade weapons,

Aryanna Engineer as Max, Orphan © Warner Brothers

and Max (Aryana Engineer) cannot speak so must communicate with sign language.

CCH Pounder as Sister Abigail, Orphan © Warner Brothers

Rather than wait till Kate is healed, physically and emotionally, from the miscarriage, Kate and John want another child right now. To fix their disintegrating marriage and expand their too-small family, Kate and John visit a local orphanage. There, under the watchful eye of Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), who warns that Esther is “very mature for her age,” Kate and John become enamored of Esther (Isabelle Furhman), who seems just too-too-good to be true.

Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther, Orphan © Warner Brothers

Because, of course, Esther is too good to be true.

As soon as Kate and John get their new daughter home, there are some problems. Though Max immediately embraces her new sister, Daniel is perturbed by Esther. Whether his is already feeling neglected or he fears two sisters will be too much for any boy in any one household to handle is not clear, but Daniel is less than welcoming.

In any event, Esther immediately shows some signs of being… well, more than “very mature.” She shows signs of being… strange. Like wanting to wear clothes to school that are entirely inappropriate for her age and way inappropriate for grammar school, or wanting to wear makeup that would make the average street-walking prostitute look au naturel. Esther gets really very perturbed when things don’t go her way, relly upset when other children don’t immediately accept her, or really angry and violent when… well, I’m sure you already know all this part of the story.

Isabelle Furhman as Esther, Orphan © Warner Brothers

By the time things start to go really wrong with Esther and Mother Kate gets concerned, no one else wants to listen to her. After all, she’s a recovering alcoholic and a grieving mother and…
And that’s about where the clichés in the film end.

Isabelle Furhman as Esther, Orphan © Warner Brothers

Because once things start to really go wrong, once Esther begins to get really scary, Orphan becomes an unexpected horror film with a unique twist. No matter what you imagine is the reason behind Esther’s unpleasant and increasingly atrocious behavior, I doubt you will figure out the real reason this orphan is very angry and wicked. And I doubt you will figure out what she really wants from her adopted family.

Though the reviews are mixed, Orphan was a prize-winner in several Independent Film Festivals, and Isabelle Fuhrman as the orphan Esther was virtually universally acclaimed. Some critics compared Fuhrman’s performance as Esther to that of Linda Blair in The Exorcist and Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed, both of which are horror classics.

On Cinemax this month, Orphan is also available for rent ($2.99-3.99) on Amazon (free with a 7-day Cinemax trial), YouTube, Vudu, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Related Posts

#NoSpoilers

7 Wonders of the Horror Movie World

The First Award-Winning Horror Film:
The Exorcist

The World Breaks Everyone:
Horror Film Classic Rosemary’s Baby

Shutter Island, the Film, Is Shuddery Good

Scary Because It’s Possible:
The Bad Seed, the Film

The Demons Within:
The Innocents, the Film

The Plague that Cast the World Into Darkness:
Open Grave, the Film

Not For Children: The Horror Film The Orphanage

The Tragedy Doomed to Repeat Itself:
The Devil’s Backbone: The Film

To Make Cynics of Us All:
Devil, The Horror Film

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Filed under #31DaysOfHalloween, Actors, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Halloween, Horror, Horror Films, Movies/Films, No Spoilers Review, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Psychological Horror, Review, Review/No Spoilers