There’s horror and then there’s Orphan, a deeply disturbing and creepy film that gets under your skin.
From everyone being a ghost in The Others to the otherworldly ritual technology of The Cabin in the Woods, twist endings have long been a tradition of some of the greatest horror films. There’s no better way for a horror movie to end than giving you one final scare: preferably one that changes the nature of the entire film you just saw.
Sure, most people might be thinking about M. Night Shyamalan‘s infamous plot twists and how they sometimes sacrifice the movie’s meaning in favour of pure shock value. However, when a twist ending is done right, it can impart new meaning into a movie, making you appreciate the smaller details of the film’s plot.
2009’s Orphan flew under many people’s radar – and that’s a real shame for horror fans. Starring Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, and surprisingly produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, is about a couple that’s devastated after the stillbirth of their third child.
Heartbroken, Kate and John Coleman decide to adopt a 9-year-old Russian girl named Esther from an orphanage. It seems like Esther might be the perfect child, being especially adorable to her stepfather John. However, as just so happens in every horror movie, things take a turn for the worse rather quickly.
Esther begins showing some serious antisocial behaviour, and even shows that she knows more things about the adult world than most girls her age. As Kate grows suspicious of Esther’s behaviour, the girl begins incriminating her for all the terrible things happening in their house.
Now, it all sounds like the typical “problem child” kind of movie: almost like a The Good Son type of movie; but here’s where Orphan turns itself around and reveals the shocking truth behind Esther’s eerie behaviour. Be careful of the spoilers ahead, though, especially if you’re planning to watch the movie for the first time!
As it turns out, Esther is not really 9-years-old – far from it. Her real name is Leena Klammer, and she’s a woman born with hypopituitarism, which means that while she might look like a girl, she’s actually 33 years old. That’s why she was being so lovey-dovey with John and blaming Kate for her own despicable actions.
The Art of a Twist
The reason why Orphan’s twist is so effective is that it never betrays the narrative that came before it – on the contrary: it complements the rest of the movie, as the revelation works as the film’s satisfying third act.
Of course, Orphan is not the only horror movie that has mastered the art of the pleasing plot twist: other films like the Roman Polanski classic Rosemary’s Baby had applied the same technique in the past. The idea of a twist is not to make everything that came before it irrelevant, only to give it a different meaning.
That’s why movies like The Cabin in the Woods are so loved by critics, while others like Shyamalan’s The Village are cited as some of the worst examples of a plot twist in cinematic history.
We know throughout the whole film that Esther is the one behind every evil that befalls the Colemans, we just don’t know why or how.
If you’re interested in a movie that has a satisfying plot twist and great acting and atmosphere throughout the whole ordeal, definitely give Orphan a watch.
Also worth mentioning is that the movie is set to get a sequel pretty soon, so give this one a watch to know what to expect (or not!) from its sequel.
Orphan: First Kill
Serving as a prequel to the 2009 horror film, Orphan: First Kill (Originally titled Esther) gives us Esther’s origin story and reveals how she became a killer. Starring Julia Stiles as Katie Mauerova and Isabelle Fuhrman reprising her role as the young woman suffering from hypopituitarism, the film (directed by William Brent Bell) is set to release in 2022.
The synopsis reads:
Leena Klammer impersonates “Esther”, the missing daughter of Katie Mauerova and Richard Mauerova. Katie becomes convinced that it isn’t her daughter, while Richard disagrees, believing that his wife is suffering from paranoia and hallucinating. Leena tries to separate them, causing some major problems to the family. But Katie was quick to discover Leena’s dark past and murderous history, threatening her, Leena becomes outrageous, committing her “First Kill”.
“I was there every day. I know how we did this. I know all the tricks, and I’m so thoroughly disturbed right now, because I somehow am nine years old again, and it doesn’t make any sense… I was like, how do I revisit this part and then also convincingly play a kid? Because that was the easy part last time, the hard part was trying to be an adult. Now the hard part is I have to be kid.”
Tell us, did you enjoy Orphan and are you looking forward to the sequel?