Orphan (2009 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJaume Collet-Serra
Produced by
Screenplay byDavid Leslie Johnson
Story byAlex Mace
Music byJohn Ottman
CinematographyJeff Cutter
Edited byTimothy Alverson
Distributed by
Release date
  • July 21, 2009 (2009-07-21) (Westwood)
  • July 24, 2009 (2009-07-24) (North America)
  • October 22, 2009 (2009-10-22) (Germany)
  • December 30, 2009 (2009-12-30) (France)
Running time
123 minutes
Budget$20 million[3]
Box office$78.8 million[3]

Orphan is a 2009 psychological horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by David Leslie Johnson from a story by Alex Mace. The film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, C. C. H. Pounder and Jimmy Bennett. The plot centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a mysterious nine-year-old girl.

The film is an international co-production between the United States, Canada, Germany and France. It was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions. Principal photography for the film took place in Canada, in the cities of St. ThomasTorontoPort Hope, and Montreal.

Orphan was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009, by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its dark humor and scares but criticized its formulaic screenplay. The film grossed $78 million worldwide against a $20 million budget.

A prequel, titled Orphan: First Kill, is in development.


Kate and John Coleman's marriage is strained after the stillbirth of their third child Jessica, whose loss is particularly hard on Kate, a recovering alcoholic. The couple decide to adopt a 9-year-old Estonian girl, Esther, from the local orphanage. While their 5-year-old deaf daughter Max embraces Esther almost immediately, their 12-year-old son Daniel acts cold toward her.

One night, after talking of how things have become since Esther came into their lives, John and Kate begin to have intercourse before Esther interrupts them. Kate becomes suspicious when Esther expresses far more knowledge of sex than expected of a child her age, but John theorises she may have learned this from her previous foster parents. Later, Esther demonstrates hostile behavior, killing an injured pigeon and injuring a bullying classmate at the park, furthering Kate's suspicions.

Sister Abigail, the head of the orphanage, visits the household, warning Kate and John of other tragic events surrounding Esther. Later, Esther baits Sister Abigail by pushing Maxine onto the road and she nearly runs over her with her car. Horrified, Sister Abigail rushes to check on the young girl. Esther walks up behind her and bashes her over the head with a hammer. She is dragged further from the road where she regains consciousness. Esther finishes her off with the same hammer and pushes her body into a ditch, hiding the evidence in Daniel's treehouse. She catches Daniel spying on her, interrogates him, and threatens to kill him if he tells his parents. As Kate becomes further convinced about Esther's behavior, John suggests that Esther could do something nice for Kate. She intentionally brings her a bouquet of flowers from Jessica's grave, angering Kate who roughly grabs Esther's arm in response. Later that night, Esther purposely breaks her arm and blames Kate, leading to her purchasing two wine bottles. However, she resists drinking and empties one of the bottles. The next day, Esther releases the brake in the car, causing it to roll into oncoming traffic with Max inside. When Esther points out the wine bottle she found in the kitchen, John and Kate's therapist, Dr. Browning, suggest that Kate returns to rehab, as John threatens to divorce her if she refuses. Kate later discovers that Esther came from an Estonian mental hospital and the orphanage Esther claims she was from has no records of her.

When Daniel learns about Sister Abigail's death from Max and searches the treehouse, Esther sets it on fire, causing Daniel to fall, lose consciousness and be seriously injured. Esther attempts to kill him, but is prevented by Max. While Daniel is in the hospital, Esther smothers him but he is quickly revived. Kate, whose suspicions have been confirmed, has enough and strikes her, but is physically restrained and sedated. That night, Esther attempts to seduce a drunken John, who threatens to send Esther back to the orphanage for her behavior. At the hospital, Kate is contacted by Dr. Värava of the Saarne Institute, and learns that Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer. She has hypopituitarism, a rare hormonal disorder that stunted her physical growth and caused proportional dwarfism, and has spent most of her life posing as a little girl. Leena has murdered at least seven people, including the last family that adopted her after failing to seduce the husband. The ribbons Esther wears around her wrists and neck have been hiding scars from trying to break out of a straitjacket. Meanwhile, Leena removes her disguise and stabs John to death, which Max witnesses. After Kate rushes home, Leena grabs a gun and attempts to shoot Kate, wounding her arm. Max seeks refuge in the greenhouse. Leena looks for any family member to shoot, and Kate tries to hide on top of the glass. After Leena begins to open fire at Max, Kate starts yelling and exposes her location to Leena. Leena then tries to shoot her, but Kate breaks through the roof and lands on top of her.

As Kate and Max leave and the police arrive, Leena attacks Kate near a frozen pond, knocking the gun away from Kate and hurling them onto the ice. Max tries to shoot Leena but shatters the ice, sending Leena and Kate underwater. Kate climbs out, with Leena clinging to her legs. Leena, in a final desperate attempt, pleads with Kate to save her while hiding a knife behind her back, before Kate yells, explicitly declaring to Leena that she's not her mother and kicks her in the jaw, breaking her neck and killing her. Leena sinks into the icy pond as Kate and Max meet up with the police.



Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard were cast in main roles in late November 2007.[4][5] Principal photography for the film took place in Canada, in the cities of St. Thomas, Toronto, Port Hope, and Montreal.[4]


Orphan had its world premiere in Westwood, Los Angeles on July 21, 2009. The following day, it screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada. The film was released theatrically in North America on July 24, 2009. It was then released in the United Kingdom on August 7, 2009 by Optimum Releasing.

Home media[edit]

Orphan was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 27, 2009 in the United States by Warner Home Video and in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2009 by Optimum Releasing. The DVD includes deleted scenes, and the alternate ending. The opening previews also contain a public service announcement describing the plight of unadopted children in the United States and encouraging domestic adoption.


Box office[edit]

The film opened in the 4th spot at the box office, making a total of $12.8 million, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and The Ugly Truth. The film went on to gross a worldwide total of $78.3 million.[3][6]

Critical response[edit]

Isabelle Fuhrman starred as Esther[7]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 56% based on 155 reviews, with an average rating of 5.60/10. The website's critics consensus read, "While it has moments of dark humor and the requisite scares, Orphan fails to build on its interesting premise and degenerates into a formulaic, sleazy horror/thriller."[8] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 42 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3​12 stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one."[11] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review, commenting: "Orphan provides everything you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still has the power to surprise."[12] Todd McCarthy of Variety was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan becomes genuine trash during its protracted second half."[13]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote: "Actors have to eat like the rest of us, if evidently not as much, but you still have to wonder how the independent film mainstays Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard ended up wading through Orphan and, for the most part, not laughing."[14] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, noting: "Orphan isn't scary – it's garish and plodding."[15] Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club wrote: "If director Jaume Collet-Serra set out to make a parody of horror film clichés, he succeeded brilliantly."[16]


This film won the International Feature Length Competition Golden Raven at the 2010 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. It was also nominated Choice Summer Movie: Drama at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards.[citation needed]


The film's content, depicting a murderous adoptee, was not well received by adoption groups.[17] The controversy caused filmmakers to change a line in one of their trailers from:

"It must be difficult to love an adopted child as much as your own," to "I don't think Mommy likes me very much."[18]

— Esther

Melissa Fay Greene of The Daily Beast commented:

"The movie Orphan comes directly from this unexamined place in popular culture. Esther's shadowy past includes Eastern Europe; she appears normal and sweet, but quickly turns violent and cruel, especially toward her mother. These are clichés. This is the baggage with which we saddle abandoned, orphaned, or disabled children given a fresh start at family life."[19]

There is a pro-adoption service message on the DVD, advising viewers to consider adoption.


In February 2020, development of a prequel film was announced, titled Esther, with William Brent Bell signed on as director from a script by David Coggeshall. The project will be a joint-venture between eOne and Dark Castle Entertainment. Alex Mace, Hal Sadoff, Ethan Erwin and James Tomlinson will produce the film, with David Leslie Johnson as an executive producer. Production was set to begin summer 2020.[20] In October 2020, Julia Stiles said she was about to start working on the film.[21] In November, the title was changed to Orphan: First Kill, with Isabelle Fuhrman returning to star in the film.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Orphan (2009) | BFI". BFI. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "LUMIERE : Film: Orphan". Lumiere. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Orphan (2009) – Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ a b Siegel, Tatiana (November 29, 2007). "Sarsgaard, Farmiga join 'Orphan'". Variety.
  5. ^ Barnes, Jessica (December 1, 2007). "Sarsgaard and Farmiga Join 'Orphan'". Moviefone. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  6. ^ "Orphan (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  7. ^ Portman, Jamie (July 20, 2009). "Audiences Scream for Isabelle Fuhrman's "Orphan"". The Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009.
  8. ^ "Orphan (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  9. ^ "Orphan Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  10. ^ "ORPHAN (2009) B-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 22, 2009). "Reviews: Orphan". Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. ^ LaSalle, Mick (July 23, 2009). "Review: Orphan". San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. ^ McCarthy, Todd (July 22, 2009). "Orphan Review". Variety.[dead link]
  14. ^ Dargis, Manohla (July 24, 2009). "New Kid in the House, Clearly Up to Something". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 27, 2009). "Orphan Movie Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  16. ^ Phipps, Keith (July 23, 2009). "Orphan Review". The A.V. Club.
  17. ^ "Adoption groups angry with 'Orphan' stereotypes". San Francisco Chronicle. July 17, 2009.
  18. ^ Abramowitz, Rachel (July 10, 2009). "Quick Takes: Uproar over Orphan movie". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Greene, Melissa Fay (July 15, 2009). "The New Movie Parents Hate". The Daily Beast.
  20. ^ "Orphan Prequel". The Wrap. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  21. ^ Alexandra Pollard (15 October 2020). "Julia Stiles: 'I was obnoxiously precocious – a little too smarty pants'". The Independent.
  22. ^ John Squires (November 2, 2020). "'Orphan: First Kill': Isabelle Fuhrman Will Return as Esther in 'Orphan' Prequel Film!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved November 3, 2020.

External links[edit]