Orphan (film)

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For the abandoned or neglected motion picture work, see Orphan film.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Produced by
Screenplay by David Leslie Johnson
Story by Alex Mace
Music by John Ottman
Cinematography Jeff Cutter
Edited by Timothy Alverson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • July 24, 2009 (2009-07-24)
Running time
123 minutes
Language English
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, and Isabelle Fuhrman. The plot centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a mysterious 9-year-old girl.

Orphan was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions. It is an American, Canadian, German and French co-production. The film was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009 by Warner Bros. Pictures. Some critics compared Fuhrman's performance as Esther to that of Linda Blair in The Exorcist and Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed.[4]


Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) are experiencing strains in their marriage after their third child is stillborn. They decide to adopt a 9-year-old Russian girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) from a local orphanage. While Kate and John's 7-year-old deaf-mute daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) embraces Esther immediately, their 12-year-old son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) is less welcoming. At school, a bully named Brenda taunts Esther, and she is eventually hurt when Esther pushes her off a slide and causes her to break her ankle.

Kate eventually suspects that there might be problems in Esther's background when Esther catches her and John having sex in the kitchen, and Esther knows more about sex beyond her years. Kate is further alarmed when Sister Abigail (C. C. H. Pounder), the head of the orphanage, warns her that bad things happen when Esther is around upon stating theories that whenever an incident such as arson or murder, Esther would always appear. Esther overhears this and uses Max to kill Sister Abigail using a hammer. Kate is convinced that something is wrong with Esther, but John does not believe her. Kate finds Esther's "Bible" and discovers that it came from the Saarne Institute in Estonia, a mental hospital. She emails a picture of Esther to them and asks for more information.

When Daniel learns about Sister Abigail's death, he tells Max of his plan to retrieve the hammer. Esther overhears this and confronts Daniel at the tree house before setting it on fire and escaping. Daniel falls trying to escape and is knocked unconscious. Esther attempts to finish him off, but Max stops her. While Daniel is hospitalized, Esther slips into his room and smothers him, but he is revived. Kate realizes what happened and attacks Esther before being sedated by the hospital staff.

That night, a provocatively-dressed Esther tries to seduce a drunk John. When his vision clears, he tells Esther that he's calling the orphanage to discuss her future in their house and tells her to go to her room. Esther is devastated.

At the hospital, Kate receives a call from Dr. Varava (Karel Roden), the director of The Saarne Institute, who reveals that Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer, who has a rare hormone disorder that stunted her physical growth. She was one of The Saarne Institute's most violent patients and was forced to wear a straitjacket to protect the staff. After constantly trying to fight her way of it, she suffered permanent scars on her neck and wrists. She also spent most of her life posing as a child. She tricked a family into adopting her, but when she couldn't seduce the father, she killed him and his entire family, and burned their house down. Dr. Varava also said she disappeared a year ago, and they lost track of her. He warned Kate: "If it's really Leena, you don't have much time." Horrified, Kate rushes home.

During this time, Leena removes her "Esther" disguise by removing her ribbons around her neck and wrists, fake teeth, makeup, and "wrappings," and trashes her bedroom. John comes to check on Esther and notices a black light has been dislodged from her fish tank. The blacklight suddenly reveals "Esther's" artwork to be sexual and violent. Horrified, John realizes that Kate was right.

John is then ambushed by Leena, who stabs and kills him. Max witnesses this and hides. Kate rushes home and finds John dead. Leena gets a gun and shoots Kate. Kate manages to take the gun and flees with Max. Leena finds Kate and Max near a frozen pond. She lunges at Kate, hurling them both into the ice. Kate climbs partially out of the pond, and Leena begs Kate not to let her die, but Kate kicks her in the face, breaking her neck and killing her.



Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard were cast in main roles in late November 2007.[5][6] Principal photography for the film took place in Canada, in the cities of St. Thomas, Toronto, Port Hope, and Montreal.[5]


Orphan had its world premiere in Westwood, California 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 include deleted scenes, and one 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 $12,770,000, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and The Ugly Truth. The film has since grossed a total of $78,337,373.[3][7]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 55% approval rating based on 148 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The site's consensus reads, "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] The film also earned a 42 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, based on 25 reviews, indicating "mixed to average reviews".[9]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3.5 stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one."[10] 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."[11] Todd McCarthy of Variety was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan becomes genuine trash during its protracted second half."[12] 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."[13] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, noting: "Orphan isn't scary – it's garish and plodding."[14] 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."[15] Although the film received mixed reviews, Fuhrman's performance was acclaimed and positively received.


Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result
2009 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie: Drama Orphan Nominated
2010 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film International Feature Length Competition Golden Raven Won


The film's content, depicting a murderous adoptee, was not well received by adoption groups.[16] 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."[17] 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."[18] There is a pro-adoption service message on the DVD, advising viewers to consider adoption.

Alternate ending[edit]

In an alternate ending, after Kate saves Max from Leena and they escape, Leena is seen hurrying to her room. There, she is shown with a face covered in bloody cuts while she re-applies makeup, which poorly hides them. She then puts on the dress she wore for her first day of school and greets the police at the top of the stairs by curtsying and introducing herself as Esther...

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d http://lumiere.obs.coe.int/web/film_info/?id=32259
  2. ^ a b c d "Orphan (2009)". British Film Institute. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c "Orphan (2009) – Financial Information". The-Numbers.com. 
  4. ^ Portman, Jamie (July 20, 2009). "Audiences Scream for Isabelle Fuhrman's "Orphan"". The Montreal Gazette. 
  5. ^ a b Siegel, Tatiana (November 29, 2007). "Sarsgaard, Farmiga join 'Orphan'". Variety. 
  6. ^ Barnes, Jessica (December 1, 2007). "Sarsgaard and Farmiga Join 'Orphan'". Moviefone. 
  7. ^ "Orphan (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Orphan (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Orphan Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 22, 2009). "Reviews: Orphan". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  11. ^ LaSalle, Mick (July 23, 2009). "Review: Orphan". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (July 22, 2009). "Orphan Review". Variety. 
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla (July 24, 2009). "New Kid in the House, Clearly Up to Something". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 27, 2009). "Orphan Movie Review". Entertainment Weekly. 
  15. ^ Phipps, Keith (July 23, 2009). "Orphan Review". The A.V. Club. 
  16. ^ "Adoption groups angry with 'Orphan' stereotypes". San Francisco Chronicle. July 17, 2009. 
  17. ^ Abramowitz, Rachel (July 10, 2009). "Quick Takes: Uproar over Orphan movie". Los Angeles Times. 
  18. ^ Greene, Melissa Fay (July 15, 2009). "The New Movie Parents Hate". The Daily Beast. 

External links[edit]