Everything that follows is: a spoiler.
Have you ever wanted to see Peter Sarsgaard naked, but also want to see him get stabbed? I found your movie. The Orphan has become somewhat of a legend among horror films, in that it’s not quite scary, not terribly funny, but so ridiculous, it’s hard to look away. It gets better by the minute.
Let’s start at the beginning. We’re in a dream sequence, you see, because everything is hazy. Vera Farmiga (Kate) is in labor at the hospital, while husband Sarsgaard (Jonathan) assures her everything’s going to be fine. Of course it’s not. The nurse wheels her to the delivery room as a torrent of blood trails behind her. On the gurney, the doctor nonchalantly tells Kate that her baby has died, but has to give birth anyway. She wakes up screaming. You see, Kate and Jon had a stillborn baby, Jessica, and now they want to fill the void in their lives by adopting a child. They scattered Jessica’s ashes in their garden and a white rose bush grows in its place.
They already have two children: Daniel, who is probably 10, and Maxine, who is 5 and deaf. She is adorable and they all communicate in happy sign language. We learn that Kate had a problem with drinking, but has since stopped. She was passed out drunk sometime after the baby died, and Max almost drowned in the pond. She also used to teach piano at Yale, but you know how those things go.
Did you know that there are still orphanages in America? Scary, Catholic orphanages? I was under the impression that these did not exist anymore, but clearly I am mistaken. You can also just go to the orphanage and browse the children, and basically just pick the kid you want to take home. Adoption is easy! Kate and Jon go to the local orphanage and find Esther in about five minutes – a precocious Russian girl who’s just a little bit quirky. She’s the Manic Pixie Dream Orphan. They take Esther home and things are alright for a couple scenes. She dresses like a Victorian doll, so that isn’t so good with the peers (one girl gets the ridiculous line “Little Bo Peep just texted me, she like wants her outfit back.”). She wears ribbons on her neck and wrists that she refuses to take off, and she really likes her new dad.
Things go downhill pretty fast. Daniel accidentally shoots a bird with a paintball gun, and Esther “puts it out of its misery” by bludgeoning it with a rock. Problem child. She paints quite well, but uses some disturbing imagery, and says fuck a lot. She does some other minor stuff too, and then launches forward into the crazy. Kate is concerned by her behavior and wants to take her to the shrink, since they don’t know much about her past. She checks out fine, but tells the doctor that mommy doesn’t love her. Everyone leaps on Kate because of her past drinking problems, which is really unfair. At the park, the little girl who made fun of Esther’s clothes mysteriously falls off the slide and breaks her leg. She won’t allow Kate into the bathroom with her during bath time. She carries around a creepy Bible with torn up photographs between the pages. Red flags! And fucking Peter Saarsgaard just ignores it all because he still can’t forgive Kate for the pond incident. She finally loses it when 1. She hears Esther playing the piano at an expert level, when she told Kate she wanted to learn…about a week ago, and 2. as a present for mommy, she cuts up the dead baby rose bush and presents her the bouquet. She also breaks her own arm and tells Jon that Kate did it.
Now, the only person who believes Kate, of course, is the Sister from the orphanage, who visits the house and voices her concerns about Esther’s past behavior. The Nun now has to die. Esther takes Max out to the road when the nun is leaving and pushes her into the road in front of the car. The nun spins out on the ice, and gets out of the car to tend to the girl. Then Esther smashes her head in with a hammer and leaves her in the snow. She hides all the bloody evidence in the tree house.
Daniel does not like Esther, as she has repeatedly threatened him with an exact-o knife. He goes to the tree house to investigate, and she corners him. She lights the tree house on fire and locks him inside. He falls and breaks his neck, and stays in the hospital in a coma. Of course, at the hospital she tries to smother him with a pillow while nobody pays attention, but that doesn’t work. Kate slaps her because she knows what’s up, so Jon takes her home and gets drunk to numb the pain of dealing with his stupid alcoholic wife. Esther steals Max’s hearing aids and whores up. So she can seduce Peter Sarsgaard. Who is drunk and considers it. He wises up and rejects her.
MEANWHILE, Kate is still at the hospital and gets a call from the Russian orphanage. It’s not a Russian orphanage; it’s a mental hospital in Estonia. Esther is really a 33 year-old woman with “proportional dwarfism” and homicidal tendencies. In simpler terms, she looks like a child, albeit a very murdery child. She moves in with families and tries to seduce the husband. When that doesn’t work, she kills the whole family.
Kate rushes home and finds her husband already dead, stabbed multiple times in the chest. Didn’t see that coming. In a sequence that is equally ripped from When a Stranger Calls and that movie where Beyonce beats up that white woman who’s sleeping with her man, Kate and Esther duke it out. I’m pretty sure Esther shoots her in the arm. We come full circle when they fight underwater in the pond where Max almost drowned. In a line stolen from a movie that I can’t remember (anyone?), Esther grabs at Kate’s leg and says “Please mommy, don’t let me drown,” as Kate replies, “I’m not your mommy” and kicks her square in the jaw, breaking her neck.
Then the police come and the movie ends. Peter Sarsgaard is a douchebag.