Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman
John: Look at the snow orphan!
Kate: Snow orphan??
A couple, John (Sarsgaard) and Kate (Farmiga), with two kids of their own decide to adopt another child, Esther (Fuhrman). She seems perfect…at first! Soon, bad things start to happen around the house, and Kate is convinced Esther is to blame. Convincing her husband, or anybody else, of this turns out to be a problem.
Didn’t I just see this movie recently? And wasn’t it called Joshua? Okay, so they’re not the same exactly, but the similarities are many. You’ve got your scary piano-playing kid, of course, trying to drive apart his or her parents. There’s a mother whose credibility is called into question because of a past mental problem in one movie and a past drinking problem in the other movie. Oh, and both mothers are played by the same actress, Vera Farmiga. I guess she just has that tormented-by-a-child look to her. I must admit, she’s good at it.
The acting is good across the board in the movie, actually. Sarsgaard is always dependable (though, his drunken crying was borderline embarrassing) and Fuhrman is convincingly evil as Esther. I thought the kid in Joshua was mean, but he’d run screaming from Esther. You do not want to do anything that will get that evil stare of hers cast your direction. I thought the youngest child, Max, was well played by newcomer Aryana Engineer. She’s hearing impaired (in the movie and real life apparently) and never says a word, but she communicates a lot with her expressions.
As for the plot, it’s nothing much new, but it’s kind of like a roller-coaster ride. Not so much because it’s fast paced, but because you can see exactly where it’s going, yet still enjoy the ride. It’s still too reliant on jump-scares and loud music hits, but there is enough uneasiness created to make the movie effectively creepy. Esther’s hidden drawings were an especially nice touch.
It’s a little overlong, but it kept my attention for the most part. I just wish they’d taken the characters in a few more original directions. Though I will say one scene near the end shocked me a little bit. Unfortunately the rest of the ending was just a mindless slasher, chase sequence with all the usual horror movie cliches.
Background checks, people…thorough background checks…
10 – 2.5 for unoriginality and predictability + .2 for Farmiga’s performance – .7 for being a little overlong = 7.0