Orphan Poster
Directed By
Produced By

Joel Silver Susan Downey Leonardo DiCaprio

Jennifer Davisson Killoran
Written By

Story: Alex Mace Screenplay:

David Leslie Johnson
Music By
John Ottman
Jeff Cutter
Editing By
Timothy Alverson

Distributed By

USA/International: Warner Bros. UK/Germany/France:

Release Date(s)
July 24, 2009 (2009-07-24)
123 min.

Warner Bros. UK/Germany/France: StudioCanal]]

Orphan was a 2009 horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman. The film centered on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child adopted a child. Orphan was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions.[1] The film was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009.[2]


Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) are experiencing strains in their marriage after Kate's third child was stillborn. The loss was particularly hard on Kate who was still recovering from a drinking problem that cost Kate her job. While visiting the local orphanage, they decided to adopt Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a 9 year old Russian girl. While Kate and John's daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer) who was a deaf mute and communicated with sign language embraced Esther almost immediately, their son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) was somewhat less welcoming.

Kate grew suspicious when Esther who watched Kate and John having sex, expressed far more knowledge of sex and it’s slang than it would be expected for a child that was her age. Not long after Esther arrived, she pushed a schoolmate who picked on her off a playground slide, breaking her ankle. Max saw Esther shove the girl, but covered for Esther by saying that the girl slipped. At dinner, Daniel was mad and annoyed at Esther even saying,: "She was not my f*****g sister."

Kate was further alarmed when Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), the head of the orphanage warned her and John about Esther's tendency to be around when things went wrong. Esther overheard this and later killed Sister Abigail by bludgeoning her with a hammer. She forced Max to help her hide the body and the hammer. Daniel saw Esther and Max descending from his treehouse from behind a rock, not knowing that they hid the hammer there. Later that night, Esther threatened to kill Daniel if he told anyone what he saw.

Kate was told that the Russian orphanage that Esther came from had no records about her ever being there. However, John did not believe her, despite continued ominous behavior by Esther. At one point, Esther broke her own arm in John's vase and convinced John that Kate broke it after Esther desecrated the garden grave site of her stillborn child's ashes. When John suggested that Kate should spend the night downstairs while Esther stayed in the master bedroom, Kate drove out and purchased two bottles of wine. After a struggle, she poured the opened bottle of wine down the drain. On Esther's first day back at school, she slipped Kate's SUV into neutral, nearly killing Max. Afterward, John and Kate's psychiatrist confronted her with the unopened bottle which Esther found. They blamed the accident on her carelessness because of her hangover.

Kate learned that Esther was housed at a mental institution in Estonia called the Saarne Institute, but when she expressed her misgivings to John, he and her counselor thought that Kate was relapsing into her drinking habit. After John produced the other bottle that Kate bought on the night before, he threatened to leave her and take the kids with him unless she got help.

Daniel learned about the hammer from Max and decided to get it and go to the police. However, Esther set the treehouse on fire, intending to get rid of the evidence and kill Daniel. Daniel escaped by falling out of the tree, severely injuring his neck and knocking him unconscious. Esther tried to finish him off by smashing a brick over his head, but Max shoved her out of the way just in time. Esther again tried to kill him at the hospital by unhooking his respirator and attempting to smother him with a pillow, placing him in a near-fatal coma. The doctors rushed into the room and managed to save Daniel. Outside, Kate angrily slapped Esther across her face, knocking her to the floor and calling her a bitch and was subdued and sedated by the doctors.

That night, Esther tried to seduce a drunk and dazed John who drank Kate's last bottle. John threatened to call the orphanage to talk about Esther's future in their house, but was stabbed to death by Esther after John discovered her disturbing artwork in her now-trashed bedroom.

As the now-widowed Kate was coming out of sedation, she got a call from the Saarne Institute's director, Dr. Varava (Karel Roden) who revealed the horrifying truth about Esther. Her real name was Leena Klammer and she had hypopituitarism which was a disorder that stunted her physical growth and caused dwarfism. She was born in 1976 and was a 33 year old woman who was a serial killer posing as a little girl. During this time, Leena removed her false teeth, makeup and the ribbons that she wore around her neck and wrists to hide the scars from being in a straightjacket. Dr. Varava warned Kate: "If it was really Leena, you did not have much time."

When Kate got home, she was finally pushed over the edge after discovering her husband dead. Kate took Max and ran away from the house. When the police arrived, Leena disappeared. Leena ran after Kate, trying to kill her and Max with a knife. Their chase took them to a frozen pond where Kate and Leena struggled. Max grabbed Leena's snub-nosed revolver trying to shoot her, but missed causing the ice to shatter. Leena and Kate fell into the freezing water. Kate crawled out of the hole, followed by Leena who begged for her life, addressing Kate as "Mommy" while hiding a knife behind her back. Kate responded, "I am not your f*****g Mommy!" and fiercely kicked Leena in the face, breaking her neck, sending her flying back into the pond. The film ended with Kate and Max leaving the pond.


  • Vera Farmiga as Katherine "Kate" Coleman
  • Peter Sarsgaard as John Coleman
  • Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther Coleman/Leena Klammer
  • C. C. H. Pounder as Sister Abigail
  • Jimmy Bennett as Daniel Coleman
  • Aryana Engineer as Maxine "Max" Coleman
  • Margo Martindale as Dr. Browning
  • Karel Roden as Dr. Värava
  • Rosemary Dunsmore as Grandma Barbara
  • Genelle Williams as Sister Judith


The film was mostly shot in Canada in the cities of Toronto, Port Hope and Montreal. Also, some portions of the film are shot in the American state of Connecticut. A hint of this was the vehicle's license plate throughout the movie.[1]

"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."[3]
― {{{2}}}


Critical reaction to Orphan was mixed with the film earning a rating of 56% (43% among the Top Critics) on Rotten Tomatoes,[4] where the consensus was: "While it had moments of dark humor and the requisite scares, Orphan failed to build on it's interesting premise and degenerated into a formulaic, sleazy horror/thriller". It also earned a 42 out of 100 on Metacritic.[5] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3½ stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one."[6] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review, saying: "Orphan provided everything that you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still had the power to surprise."[7]

Todd McCarthy of Variety was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan became genuine trash during it's protracted second half."[8] 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."[9] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, saying, "Orphan was not scary — it was garish and plodding."[10]

Openly (And at times vehemently) negative reviews are abundant: from "galling, distasteful trash" (Eric D. Snider)[11] to "old-fashioned and trashy horror flick" (Emanuel Levy)[12] and "relentlessly bad", albeit "entertaining" (Rob Vaux).[13] According to Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews, "The problem with Orphan was not merely that the film was idiotic--it was that it was also sleazy, formulaic and repellant."[14] And according to Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club, "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, Isabelle Fuhrman's performance was acclaimed and positively received. Emanuel Levy said of Fuhrman "acquitted herself with a strong performance, affecting a rather convincing Russian accent and executing sheer evil with an admirable degree of calm and earnestness."[16] Todd McCarthy proclaimed that Fuhrman (As well as Bennett and Engineer) was terrific and she "made Esther calmly beyond reproach even when faced with monumental evidence against her and had the requisite great evil eye."[17] Mick LaSalle continued in that Fuhrman "stole the show" and she "injected nuance into this portrayal as well as an arch spirit."[18] And as said by Roger Ebert, she "was not going to be convincing as a nice child for a long, long time."[19]

The film was the #4 film at the box office for it's opening weekend, making $12.77 million total, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Ugly Truth respectively. As of September 9, 2009, the film grossed a total of $47,886,036.[20]

Release date Edit

July 24 2009

External linksEdit