Evil kid movies are a staple of the horror genre, and they're usually pretty predictable. That's not necessarily a bad thing; seeing innocent little faces twist up with murderous rage is creepy to begin with -- that's why these movies exist. And to a large extent, Orphan is no different. However, this movie comes with a twist: a truly insane surprise ending that's so bizarre it's almost innovative. It will delight horror fans looking for something outlandishly weird, and induce vomiting for any casual, mild-mannered moviegoers, who assumed that a film starring Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard would be all pared down and modest.
The two leads play parents Kate and John, an upper-middle-class couple with two lovely children, one lovely home, and a giant pile of familial issues, ranging from alcoholism to unresolved grief over the stillbirth of their daughter about a year before. So, of course, the best way to heal the household is to bring in an unnervingly sophisticated little girl -- in this case, a nine-year-old Russian orphan named Esther. She's smart and polite, and you can tell she's evil because she's creepily articulate and really pale.
Unexplained accidents and eerie stares soon escalate into actual maliciousness, and Esther becomes exponentially more vicious -- though John's been manipulated by her cuteness and doesn't see it. Kate tries to convince him, but has no credibility with anybody because of the lingering stigma over her alcoholism, so she goes steadily bonkers having a wicked child in the house. This whole cerebral backbone of the story is actually pretty solid, no doubt because of the high-caliber talent in the starring roles. And it's a good thing, because for a movie about an little girl, there's a lot of screen time devoted to the emotional narrative, and there are only a couple of violent scenes in the whole film (though they do get increasingly wilder).
But, of course, by the time the big twist happens in the final act, you're in the middle of a frenzied race against time, and there are crazy-bombs dropping left and right. It would be a crime to spoil any details about the madness of that climax, but suffice it to say, it more than makes up for the rest of the movie being somewhat more discreet.