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Orphan

tn_orphanIf you had told me a week ago that I would bother to see ORPHAN, even on DVD, I would’ve thought you had the wrong guy. But then somebody told me the plot twist and it was SEVEN POUNDS all over again, it suddenly seemed more interesting and I went and paid money to see it.

And I’m happy to report that ORPHAN is a surprisingly smart and enjoyable evil-child suspense thriller. It’s about a couple played by Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard who adopt a 9-year old Russian girl named Esther, and they should’ve kept the receipt because they got a lemon. At first she seems like a smart and incredibly talented kid, but actually she’s a fuckin lunatic who ends up terrorizing them all, mommy seems crazy because she says her daughter is a maniac, etc. You pretty much know the drill.

mp_orphanExcept not exactly. First of all, this isn’t another OMEN ripoff. There’s no magic or demons in this one. No possession or anything. Just a crazy person. It’s more like THE STEPFATHER with the kid being the psychopath instead of the dad.

But more importantly what I like about this movie is that Vera Farmiga plays a fully-formed character. Women don’t usually get roles like this in mainstream Hollywood movies, let alone a silly thriller from Dark Castle productions. The first thing we learn is that she was horribly traumatized by a still birth (the movie opens with an upsettingly blunt birth disaster nightmare), not surprising for a movie about adoption. Then we learn that she’s in therapy, then that she is a recovering alcoholic, then that she has a deaf daughter, then that she plays and composes classical piano. And you keep finding out more about her: the rock bottom near-tragedy she still hasn’t lived down, the time she was forced to quit her job at Yale, the tense relationship she has with her mother-in-law, the way she deals with the loss of her unborn daughter, the sore spot she has with her husband over something he did a long time ago – all things that will conspire against her when dealing with an evil child situation.

Sometimes in a movie like this it’s good for the protagonists to be somewhat unlikable yuppies, because then it’s funnier to see them get terrorized. But this goes the other route: this poor gal has been through so much, you feel sorry for her before she even adopts. But she’s not a victim, she’s pretty upbeat for most of the movie, trying to be a good mother whether that means mistakenly trying to help her lunatic kid adjust or protecting her other kids from the lunatic. But she’s not just Lifetime Television For Women Heroic Mom of the Year either, she also has a playful side, joking around and getting it on with her husband. Something seemed unusual about the sex scenes in the movie and later I figured out it’s that sex in movies is almost always between characters who just met during the movie, almost never between people who have been together for years.

It’s a great role for Farmiga – strong, intelligent, tragic, with a naturally occurring side helping of hot. I only knew her from THE DEPARTED so I looked her up and noticed she also played the mom in that other evil kid movie JOSHUA – I wonder if that’s just her favorite type of movie? Or maybe she wasn’t happy with that one and wanted another shot.

Thomas in the comments recently pointed out the rash of evil kid movies and wanted to know if this meant that the generation that controls Hollywood is just learning that they don’t understand their kids and are terrified of them running around with their little skinny pants noodling on various bizarre handheld devices that transmit information to other little eyeliner wearing freaks so that they can vote on different singers that they have on TV or download some hot jamz for their phone ringing or whatever. It’s a good question that I don’t have a good answer to, but this one specifically I don’t think fits that theory. Part of the reason Esther is strange is because she is not modern, she wears vintage dresses that the other kids make fun of her for (in one case miming a text message as a way to cruelly insult her for no reason in front of the teacher without consequence).

I think more likely this is the rare horror movie trying specifically to appeal to adult women. It’s all about Farmiga’s parental fears. I’m not sure what she went through with JOSHUA, but with this one she has to worry about miscarriage, not being able to control her kids, not being able to protect her kids, not understanding her kids, not being trusted by her husband, not being able to trust her husband. And meanwhile she has to fight her urges to drink (she’s really into wine – she’s a wino). She’s forced to feel guilty about her past, to relive tragedies, to hit a child and act like a crazy person. The movie also pushes some pretty good discomfort buttons – they have the hero hitting a kid, the kid trying to seduce an adult, one of the good kids firing a gun!

It also plays a little bit with that old thriller device where one character (usually a kid) knows about the crazy thing that’s happening, but nobody believes them. For alot of this movie the dad is the only member of the family who doesn’t know. Mom knows but people think she’s being crazy and abusive, sister knows but is afraid she’ll be blamed because she was there when Esther murdered a nun, brother knows but doesn’t want to have his throat slit during his sleep. And the kids end up running around trying to find evidence to prove to their parents that Esther is bad news, not knowing that mom doesn’t need any evidence, she’s already onboard.

They do use one of my pet peeve cliches, the scary-character-singing-old-song trope, but fortunately not that much. There’s also a gimmick involving black light that is pretty ridiculous but sort of cool. But for the most part you’d have no idea this was made by the same company that brought us HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (remake) and HOUSE OF WAX (remake). As far as this type of movie goes it’s almost classy.

If that’s not gonna do it for you though I’ll have to give away the SPOILER twist I guess, let’s see if I can still do the invisible spoiler text thing:

it turns out Esther is not actually Russian. She’s Estonian! She lied about her whole background! Ain’t that a bitch? And she can play piano, but she pretended she couldn’t!

Oh, also she’s a 33-year old escaped mental patient who passes for a child because of a rare syndrome that causes proportional dwarfism.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 11:57 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

81 Responses to “Orphan”

  1. Nice, glad to see you seemed to dig this one as much as I did.

    JOSHUA is a worthwhile endevour if you have the chance. It’s not as conventionally structured/pay-off focused as ORPHAN, but in a lot of ways is far more tense and uncomfortable to watch. You think this one made you uneasy with the miscarriage stuff? JOSHUA mines post-partum depression for material and puts a baby in jeopardy to earn its scares. It’s a highly effective film, and it’s interesting to compare the 2 movies for certain superficial similarities but divergant ideas/tones/story directions.

  2. Yeah, I heard about the twist ending last week and I think it’s the most unintentionally hilarious ending since “The Mist”. It would work great in an episode of “Tales From The Crypt”, anyway.

  3. The ending of THE MIST was unintentionally hilarious? Not the impression I got…

  4. The Mist’s ending was hilarious? You have a hard heart, CJ Holden. I think it’s got the most devastating ending pretty much ever. It’s the only ending in movie history where a total Lovecraftian apocalypse would have been less of a downer.

    But yeah, I read The Orphan’s spoiler, and that was pretty much what I was expecting. That’s the problem with twists: once you know there is one, it’s easier to figure out than if you weren’t expecting one.

  5. Yes, it’s a very dark humored kind of “hilarious”, but come on, he kills everybody, just to see 30 seconds later, that not just the army was right behind him, but also that the mist was finally lifting? Come on, this had “Tales From The Crypt” written all over it! And it’s really just the amount of time between the killing and the rescue, that makes it hilarious IMO.

  6. I’ll grant you intentional irony, good sir, but accidental hilarity? Not how I saw things.

  7. Yeah, I was too busy recovering from getting kicked in the nuts to laugh.

  8. Also, in defense of OPRHAN’s twist, I think it comes off more as “holy shit that’s so ridiculous it’s fucking awesome” moreso than unintentionally hilarious. But your mileage may vary.

  9. I say if you’re going to have a twist (and that’s a pretty big if, in my opinion) either make it so perfect that the movie suddenly makes sense in a way it hadn’t before (Sixth Sense) or make it so fucking outlandish that sophisticated individuals such as ourselves can’t help but applaud the audacity (I Know Who Killed Me).

  10. Audacity is the perfect word for it. And bless your heart for the IKWKM reference, a movie I find endlessly fascinating and gratifying.

  11. Farmiga also did great work in RUNNING SCARED, a movie that was otherwise utter shite. She got to play super-protective avenging mom in that one, too. If the story was about her character instead of meathead Paul Walker it would have been way bett.

  12. Dunno why that last “er” was cut off. You need a forum on this web sight.

  13. caruso_stalker217

    July 29th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I left the theater laughing after watching THE MIST. I didn’t think the ending was funny, I just really enjoyed it as a big “fuck you” to the audience. Everybody seemed pretty pissed about it. One of the best movie-going experiences of my life.

  14. Vern, now that you’re on the murderous child reviews, i’m hoping for a review of “The Good Son”, any chance you’ll be able to get around to it?

  15. caruso_stalker217

    July 29th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Alchemist:

    I don’t think RUNNING SCARED was a great film or anything, but I thought Paul Walker was actually pretty good in it. I couldn’t imagine Tom Jane in that role (he was the first choice). And I got a lot of enjoyment out of Walker pointing guns at babies and saying “fuck” every other word.

    I first saw Vera Farmiga in DUMMY with Adrien Brody, which features a pretty good Milla Jovovich performance where she isn’t required to kick anybody.

  16. I was expecting the absolute worst from this one. I’m incredibly sick of the evil child, secret in the family, twist ending, boring bullshit movies that have been piled on pretty thick for the past few years. never even considered watching this. since it got the Vern OK i might check out the dvd.

    and ya, Joshua is worth watching.

  17. I agree with CJ about The Mist being unintentionally hilarious. I think the idea of the ending is fantastic, but it’s played out all a little too fast and clumsily in the film, it just seems to be “bam bam bam!” 10 seconds later the army turn up.

  18. Holy shit, that’s really the twist? I was reading a forum discussion about this film and when somebody revealed the big twist I figured they were just joking. I kind of want to see the film now.

    What’s with all these killer kid movies? IT’S ALIVE, THE UNBORN and now ORPHAN, seems like there’s no way to have a kid these days without risking your own life. Is this your way of telling us that your biological clock is ticking?

    Also THE MIST ending? I’m going to go with hilarious. I probably didn’t think so at the time (too busy gaping at the screen in disbelief) but looking back it’s pretty funny. They might as well have had an anvil drop on his head too.

  19. “the generation that controls Hollywood is just learning that they don’t understand their kids and are terrified of them running around with their little skinny pants noodling on various bizarre handheld devices that transmit information to other little eyeliner wearing freaks so that they can vote on different singers that they have on TV or download some hot jamz for their phone ringing or whatever.”

    Heh heh… Thanks Vern, that gave me a much-needed giggle.

  20. I found the Mist ending a real gutpunch, but there’s also something about it that’s bothered me. Why do none of the soldiers or the passing civillians do anything when it’s pretty clear what Tom Jane’s character just did? Even if they weren’t going to arrest him or anything like that, you’d think they’d try to get him off the road or take him to one side to try to get him to calm down, but they actually just ignore the scene and him standing there and screaming in horror at what just happened.

  21. Vera Ferminga was also in that Paul Walker movie ‘Running Scared’ where she played his wife who has to rescue that little creepy boy from the child molesters, then murder the child molesters. That was a good movie come to think of it, and she was good in it, if not exactly prominent.

  22. Christian Brimo

    July 29th, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    the spoiler for The Mist makes me want to see it and yeah its ‘hilarious’ in the way that the ending to Drag Me To Hell is hilarious. just bitterly funny

    “Part of the reason Esther is strange is because she is not modern, she wears vintage dresses” – so people are scared of Joanna Newsom and my best friend from high school? would I terrify people because i like 30s blues?

  23. Yeah, I too, was planning on never seeing this film even though it seemed like it could be a bit better than some of the other recent mainstream horror flicks because of Sarsgaard and Farmiga. Then someone online compared the ending to HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME and I had to check it out. I’m very glad I did. I loved it. I was enjoying it so much I forgot there even was a twist coming up. That ending was just the icing.

    A lot of horror films get ripped on for their acting (unfairly a lot of the times, in my opinion) but this one definitely gave the actors more to do than most horror films. When Sarsgaard breaks down towards the end of the film because of the mess his family is in it was great because a) Sarsgaard is a great actor and really sells it and b) most horror films I’ve seen don’t give the actors scenes like that. And obviously Farmiga was excellent throughout as Vern mentioned.

    Also Isabelle Fuhrman is pretty amazing as Esther. I hope she turns into the next Dakota Fanning and shows up in every movie requiring a under-14 protagonist. I thought of Vern’s review of WOLF CREEK while watching her. I seem to recall he had said John Jarrett was one of the most likable horror villains ever. I think Esther may have topped that. I sympathized with her so much during the first half hour that I still liked her even when she was going absolutely nuts. I also like that this 9-year-old girl is almost as tenacious as Jason at the end with the multiple fake deaths. If ever there was a movie I was hoping would use that cliche it was this one and they did not disappoint me.

  24. Yo Vern — just wanted to say I think it’s cool you mentioned Vera Ferminga’s role was unusually complex. I think the roles being routinely written for women are just pathetic a lot of the time, stereotypes at best and usually just props. Genre movies can be particular offenders along these lines, although there have been a few nice roles recently (“Drag me to Hell” “The Descent”). It’s cool that even if this movie isn’t the best ever, they at least let a woman be a real character with some depth and conflict — and even cooler that you’d take note and point it out. Hoorah!

  25. I forgot to ask. Anyone know of any other horror films (or really any films) with this kind of audacious and ridiculous ending? I’m already aware of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, SLEEPAWAY CAMP and I KNOW WHO KILLED ME. I’d also probably throw THE WICKER MAN remake on that list as well. Any others?

  26. Body Double goes pretty far out there. Really, all of De Palma’s thrillers are audaciousness incarnate.

  27. ‘Don’t Look Now’ has a pretty out there ending, AND its classy as shit. And how ’bout “Phantasm” while we’re at it? Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

  28. Yeah, good call on De Palma. Even THE BLACK DAHLIA, which a lot of people didn’t like too much, had a great over-the-top ending.

    And actually PSYCHO would count, too, though it is so famous now that we kind of got screwed out of the “I can’t believe this is happening” feeling the original audiences must have had.

    DON’T LOOK NOW definitely fits the “did they really just do that?” type of ending I’m looking for. And thanks for the PHANTASM mention. I have it on my shelf but I’ve never seen it. I think I’ll put it on tonight.

  29. Phantom of the Paradise is my number one example of “Classy but crazy as fuck.” That movie is nuts.

  30. I would put Dressed to Kill as an extremely underrated thriller with great performances (most of all Michael Caine) and a admirably bugnuts twist that is out there in a way that is wholly awesome. I know some call it a ripoff of a certain Hitchcock film, but I simply adore it.

  31. DePalma’s FEMME FATALE definitely gave me a “are they really doing this!?” feeling. Actually it was more of a “you’ve gotta be shittin me” that then turned into a “okay, I’ll buy it” as it continued. Definitely audacious. Also RAISING CAIN is equally nuts.

    I would also like to throw WILD THINGS out there. Not necessarily for a twist ending but for the forty two or so different twists that keep happening throughout, including about four or five during the end credits.

    I seem to remember PIECES having a particularly crazy twist, but I honestly can’t remember what it is.

    And both SEVEN POUNDS and KNOWING would qualify as recent mainstream movies with ballsy endings.

  32. You guys noticing a trend with these movies?

  33. You guys noticing a trend with these movies

  34. For crazy endings, you should really check out Takashi Miike’s DEAD OR ALIVE. The film is a bonkers-enough thriller about cops versus yakuza, but the ending evolves from a pistol duel to bazookas, psychic energy blasts and the destruction of the planet within the space of about a minute and a half.

  35. As I recall, PIECES ends with the woman made from stitched together body parts coming to life for no apparent reason and attacking the main character’s nut sack.

    SPOILER: a much more soulful version of the ending (i.e. no ball-punching) was used to greater effect in MAY, one of my favorite horror movies of this decade.

  36. Also, just speaking of crazy-as-fuck yet classy movies, I’d like to put DREAMCATCHER in the running. Approximately every 5 minutes, that movie introduces an absurd new plot twist or story element, constantly shifting gears and piling weird idea on top of weird idea. And what’s even better is that it is a mega-budget sci-fi/action/horror movie with A+ credentials: Directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starring Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Tom Sizemore, Timothy Olyphant and Jason Lee.

    And if you’re not sold yet, Donnie Wahlberg plays a retarded man with psychic powers who turns out to be a magical space alien (or something).

  37. To sum up the appeal of Dreamcatcher: The big hero moment is when a retarded former New Kid on the Block looks a giant space vagina dead in the eye and says, “Hello, Mr. Gay.”

    Is it queued up yet?

  38. “To sum up the appeal of Dreamcatcher: The big hero moment is when a retarded former New Kid on the Block looks a giant space vagina dead in the eye and says, “Hello, Mr. Gay.””

    Oooh, I think you just sold me on that one. Off to the video store with me…

  39. I have to say I really enjoyed ORPHAN until the die-Esther-die! ending. Other than that, the twist was well set up and I actually got goose bumps when StupidDad discovers what’s in Esther’s room under the black lighting.

    Holy shit–DON’T LOOK NOW scares me so much that I can’t look at that ending every time it’s on Bravo.

    Also, ANGEL HEART.

  40. A movie that was bugfuck in a way that wasn’t necessarily good, but kept my interest because I wanted to see what crazy shit it was going to do next, was “Shadowboxer”, a straight to dvd movie starring Cuba Gooding junior. I would recommend it to any fans of “I Know Who Killed Me” and the “Avant Retarde” genre of film.

  41. Wickedeve, Angel Heart is such a great little film. The fact that it is a supernatural thriller filmed as noir (Alan Parker mentioned in various interviews that he tried to create a noir in color – in which he delivers in spades) makes it such an interesting and original film. The superb direction and truly haunting visuals are a sweet cherry on top of an all-around great little thriller sundae. Also, Rourke has yet to match his performance that is the definition of tour de force. Vern, I would love if you would review it, but I know you get hundreds of review requests.

  42. DoucheNozzle, I *love* the tone of ANGEL HEART. I haven’t seen it in probably 15 years (good God, the time has flown), but the feel of it has weighed on me like bayou humidity! I’d love for Vern to give us his take on it (Please, Vern?). And how about SLEEPAWAY CAMP, too (unless that’s in the archives…)?

  43. Vern reviewed all of the Sleepaway Camps, including the recent Return to Sleepaway Camp, which is one of the funniest things he’s ever written. The incomplete list of expletives the kids call each other is a real tour de force.

  44. Brendan: What is the trend with these movies? That they are all awesome?

    Jam: I totally agree on Miike’s DEAD OR ALIVE. That is the single greatest ending to a film ever, in my opinion. I don’t see how you can make a better ending than that. He has about ten other films that could qualify for this discussion as well. Like GOZU. I saw that in a theater with only two other people in the audience and when it ended and the lights went up we just had to turn to each other and laugh, it was that unbelievable.

    Thanks, everyone, for all these recommendations. I’ve got several new movies for my to-see list.

  45. The problem with most of Miike’s yakuza movies is the hour and a half of dudes in suits staring at each other in between the dazzling openings and jaw-dropping endings. I like Miike. Hell, I love the crazy bastard. I probably own 20 of his movies. When he’s on, there’s nobody like him. But so many of his movies, his yakuza films in particular, are full of what looks to my untrained eye an awful lot like filler. The middle third or so of the Dead or Alive films, Gozu, etc. is such a slog that I don’t know how often I’ll rewatch them. I’ll just want to fast-forward to the end, maybe stopping for the occasional nipple-slicing along the way.

  46. The trend I was pointing out was that me, Vern and like four other guys all named different Brian de Palma movies in a row. He’s the master at these kind of completely insane, over-the-top movies that somehow have all the bearings and trademarks of mainstream movies.

  47. Christian Brimo

    July 30th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    “And if you’re not sold yet, Donnie Wahlberg plays a retarded man with psychic powers who turns out to be a magical space alien (or something).”

    i’ve read so much Stephen King that I know the retarded guy is psychic before even seeing the movie

    man i love DON’T LOOK NOW. and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE

  48. The twist in COLOR OF NIGHT is awesome because it’s so damn obvious that you can’t believe they’d have the balls try to pass it off as a surprise. But they do. And it’s hilarious.

    Majestyk: Yeah, I feel pretty much the same way about a lot of Miike’s films. Parts of his movies really drag but the crazy bits are so awesome that you tend to forget about that. AUDITION is probably one of my favourite horror films, but parts of it damn near put me to sleep.

  49. Mr. Majestyk: I’ve heard that complaint about Miike before but I thankfully don’t have that problem with his movies. I think that you sort of need to have that slower-paced, more normal type of stuff going on for the outrageous stuff to have the impact it does. If it is all non-stop ridiculousness then it just becomes the style of the film. Nothing would be exceptional about a man getting shot like 50 times and still standing up and walking around. But when you set up a standard, somewhat real world type of situation and then have that happen, the logical leap is so great you just have to admire it.

    It doesn’t hurt that I find his editing, cinematography and just all-around filmmaking ability to be so good that even the slower scenes are compelling to me. Then again, I love Gus Van Sant’s and Tsai Ming-Liang’s films, so Miike’s move at a break-neck pace in comparison.

  50. How about “the Forgotten” — that has to be the most bizarre mid-air directional change in movie history. It’s especially great, because the first half is pretty good and the second half is so damn crazy you can’t help but stay interested. And then the end (added after early test screenings, it seems) makes the already crazy second half make even less sense.

    Hey Jake — how’d you like “Phantasm”?

  51. caruso_stalker217

    July 31st, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Oh fuck me. Goddamn DREAMCATCHER. I watched it when it first came out and holy shit that ending… that fucking ending… I didn’t even think the book was super fantastic, but FUCK. There had to be a better movie they could’ve made. Morgan Freeman’s fucking eyebrows.

  52. Jake: I definitely agree with you in theory. But in practice, there are spots in nearly every Miike movie where I zone out. Those dead zones are more than worth sitting through for the eventual payoff, though. The only one of his films that I think didn’t have a positive insaneness-to-boringness ration was Dead or Alive 2, which I seem to remember as consisting entirely of dudes in suits hanging out on the beach, and then they have wings. Oh, and Graveyard of Honor was pretty unmemorable, but that’s because it just seemed like a normal, straightforward yakuza movie, a genre I don’t particularly care for.

  53. Brimo,

    Yeah, but did you know he was also an alien? THAT’S why the movie gets bonus points.

    Majestyk,

    Funny that you mentioned GOZU before, which is probably my favorite Miike film and one that I think is one of his most consistantly entertaining. I mean, beyond the weird shit that goes on, Miike creates a nightmarish tone that never really lets up for the whole movie (well, except the parts where the movie becomes unexpectedly hilarious).

  54. I’m flabbergasted at the love I Know Who Killed Me is shown here. At no point in this film is it ever “so bad it’s good” It’s just bad. I mean, you’re all just trying to be cool but you’re not cool. Nobody who likes that movie for any reason is a cool person. You should probably be put into jail now that I think about it more. :)

  55. Lawrence,

    I don’t think anyone is trying to be cool, I think some of us just appreciate how bizarre IKWKM is. Honestly, you might be right that it’s not “so bad it’s good.” My thing is, it’s so fucking weird and unique and entertaining that labels like good and bad stop applying. I’ve seen the movie probably 4 or 5 times now, and I always enjoy myself, whether it’s trying to spot all the uses of red and blue, or all the hidden owl designs in the background, or marveling at the Brian De Palma on mushrooms visual style, or just appreciating the lunacy of the plot.

  56. I was trying to be cool. I wear skinny jeans, communicate only via text message, and claim to enjoy critically derided Lindsay Lohan vehicles.

  57. May check this one out. It did look like evil child movie #5679989, but your review has me sold.

    So far I’ve been impressed with this year’s horror offerings (namely “Drag Me to Hell”). However I’m most excited about this film called the “Minstrel Killer”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl9gYCZxGZk

    It looks amazing (and is set in 1978 Texas)! Someone posted a link to it on these boards and now I’m anxiously awaiting its release.

  58. Mr. Subtlety: I liked PHANTASM a lot. I was hooked from the beginning when the woman Basic Instincts that guy and then turns into the The Tall Man while apparently still straddling the dead guy. Was The Tall Man also half naked? Impossible to tell, but I’d like to think so. And you were right about the ending. (SPOILERS) I was able to predict neither that he was reanimating dead bodies and compacting them to dwarf-like stature for use as slave labor on his home planet nor that it was all a dream. For all the crap that “it was all a dream” endings get for being cliche there have only been a couple films I’ve seen that actually use that as a real ending. I like it.

    I had heard about THE FORGOTTEN’s ending but I haven’t seen it. Another one for my list. For out-of-leftfield endings I’m also very partial to OPEN YOUR EYES (or VANILLA SKY if you prefer the remake). Difficult to predict where that movie is heading.

    I am, sadly, not cool. I still haven’t seen I KNOW WHO KILLED ME and then pretended to like it despite it being terrible. But I have it on order now so hopefully I’ll be able to turn my life around shortly.

  59. Thanks, Mr. Majestyk–I should’ve known Vern had these archived. Off to do a search. :)

  60. You’re all putting me in a PHANTASM mood, I might have to pop that on tonight.

    You know what I love about PHANTASM? It’s a unique mix of Lucio Fulci-style low budget nightmarish/surrealist horror with Sam Raimi EVIL DEAD 2-style low budget manic horror-comedy goofiness. I can’t think of any other horror movies quite like it.

  61. Phantasm is just terrific in every way. I’d explain why but Vern’s review pretty much just says everything better than any of us could anyway. It’s just a really unique beast. BTW — I noticed on Wikipedia that it was almost rated NC-17 when it came out because of the ball eating that guys’s brains out — but not the blood. It’s because he pisses himself as he dies! Weirdly, I never put the pieces together and realized that yellow liquid was piss — I kind of thought it was similar to the yellow blood that the Tall Man bleeds a few minutes later. I guess it’s a testament to how infrequently we see the dead voiding their bowls or bladders on screen that it didn’t even OCCUR to me that this was what I was seeing until I read about it. And it just makes the whole thing seem even more ugly and nightmarish. So go Don Corscarelli!

    Oh, and watch the sequels to see things take even more bizzare turns. They’re unnecessary but they manage to keep the upsetting, nightmare-like quality of the first and its straightfaced sense of fun intact.

    !!And please, don’t get the idea that “The Forgotten” is anywhere NEAR as good as those! It’s just bizzare enough to be interesting, but not even close to the greatness of those other two.

  62. Since we’re talking about left-turn endings, I’d like to recommend Murder Loves Killers Too, the movie by one of Vern’s readers that he gave a plug to a few weeks ago. It doesn’t have a crazy plot twist or anything, but it’s one of those movies that seems to reach its natural end about 20 minutes early, and then it continues in a completely unexpected direction. It’s an enjoyable little slasher flick for most of the running time, but then the unexpectedly witty ending totally makes it a gem.

    Also, I made the acquaintance of its director on this very site, and he’s a hell of a nice guy with a truly formidable collection of eighties movie montage songs.

  63. Lawrence, I definately don’t think anyone here is trying to be cool by admitting on the internet that they sort of enjoy a Lindsay Lohan movie. I saw it after reading Vern’s review and spent the entire time wondering how the fuck it got made at all, and I enjoyed it based on that alone.

    Mr . Subtlelty- I totally agree on the end of “The Forgotten”. I think the director lost his balls and decided to give the audience a Hollywood ending that made no fucking sense within the context of the story at all. The alternate ending on the DVD was no better though.

  64. If you watch I Know Who Killed me as a throwback to old italian gialli from the 70’s its enjoyable. I’ve read how bad people think it is, citing Lohans performance in really bizarre ways that only speak for their desire to write a snarky, gossip-fueled review and it seems they never gave it a chance. It was just the cool movie to hate that year.

  65. Ya, I know who killed me is just one of those movies that you can’t believe you’re watching, but at the same time you can’t stop looking away because of how insane everything is. When Lohan gets a robotic robo-cop arm with a battery and everything about 25 minutes in, you know your in for it.

  66. Holy crap guys, the official Command Performance trailer is out on joblo, it’s incredibly badass.

  67. Guys, I stand corrected.

  68. Holy shit, I can’t believe no one has said this yet, but I just thought about it. In the long and sad history of WTF endings, none has ever been more nonsensical and pure WTF?! than the end of Tim Burton’s remake of “Planet of the Apes”. So, it was earth all along? Or, did the chimps beat him back to earth and take over? Did he journey into Earth’s past? Or another dimesnion? None of those really make any sense at all. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: The most WTF ending of all time.

  69. At least you have some theories about what might have happened, even if they made absolutely no logical sense. (I’m going with wormhole to a parallel dimension where Ape Lincoln freed the slaves.) How about the ending of Cemetery Man? The best I can come up with is they live in a snow globe and every now and again the oversexed caretaker and the retarded gravedigger switch personalities, which really makes me want to see a sequel where the fat mongoloid gets to have sex with the hot zombie chick.

  70. Bear in mind this is not a criticism of Cemetery Man. I wouldn’t change its ending for the world.

  71. I’ve thought long and hard about what “Cemetary Man” might mean, and never really came up with a satisfactory answer. I’ve heard a number of arguments which never quite seem to completely add up — but nonetheless, I’m absolutely smitten with the film. The title theme alone is enough to justify calling it great (also, fantastic boobies). I think the difference is, films like “Cemetary Man” or Lynch’s films, or “Daisies”or “Scorpio Rising” or whatever is, they’re intentionally nonlinear, abstratc, metaphoric, symbolic, etc. A true WTF ending — to me, anyway — has to be something completely out of the blue stuck on to the end of an otherwise conventional story (ie, Ape Lincoln — very nice, heheh).

  72. Has anyone seen Robert Altman’s 3 WOMEN? It’s a strange movie throughout, but has an interior logic and is easy enough to follow… until the last few minutes, when the titular women seem to swap personalities and create some sort of family unit that didn’t exist earlier in the film.

  73. oh and re: CEMETERY MAN. I remember reading somewhere that it’s all supposed to take place in the mind of the man in the coma. The snow globe thing is just a metaphor for the fact that everything that happens is happening in a self-contained, non-existant world.

    Not that that explains everything. But I’ve meant to go back and rewatch the movie with that in mind.

  74. I don’t remember the guy in the coma. Boobs of that size and frequency tend to make my memory selective, like when I forgot to break up with that crazy chick I was dating for five years.

  75. Dan — that’s one theory I’ve heard, which does a good job explaining the snow globe and the”Returners”.

    But what about the three women and the mongoloid? And all the weird stuff about murder and mistaken identity and his weird, clingy friend (the non-mongoloid one)? Could mean a lot of things.

  76. The best horror movie this year is a ten minute short called ‘Treevenge.’ Youtube that thing. Absolute insanity.

  77. WHAT A TWEEST!

  78. Just seen this one. I liked the movie, but didn’t love the twist. Actually I don’t think it matters, since it doesn’t in any way change the perception of what’s gone before in any really significant way. Good film though, a few too many unnecessary jump scares for my taste but everyone in it plays their parts convincingly and, like Vern, I particularly liked the mother of the family.

  79. Wow, you and I had the exact same experience with this movie. I wasn’t interested, then heard about the twist and thought that sounds awesome. I’d see a movie that OPENS with that twist. But it turned out to be pretty good along the way because this poor mom was really in trouble. I mean, if the kid pours out wine and leaves the bottles to frame you, you’re fucked.

    Have you not seen Running Scared? That’s where I first saw Farmiga.

  80. I really dig that movie Joshua. The only problem with it is that once the situation starts rolling, it becomes rapidly clear that no one stands a chance against him, and the rest of it plays out as an exercise in sadism as he just stomps the hell out of everyone’s life. Without a glimmer of hope, there isn’t anything to hope for.

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