By Josh Wolk
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:10 PM EDT

Welcome back to the Pop Culture Club, where every Thursday we get a movie, TV, or DVD assignment, and then meet back here the following week to discuss it. Last week I assigned the bad-seed thriller Orphan; at that point I hadn’t read any advance reviews, and little did I know that this movie is why the term “bats–t” was invented.

Before we go any further, let me say that this post will have SPOILERS APLENTY: If you haven’t seen the movie yet, back away slowly. Because really, there’s no point in seeing this movie at all unless you’re freshly stunned by the craziness as it comes at you.

Okay, are the spoilerphobes gone? Then let me take a deep breath and say WHAT THE F—? Sorry — that’s two dashed-out profanities in as many paragraphs, but how do you describe this movie without tossing four-letter-words around like confetti? This is the kind of movie that defies politeness, as your jaw can only sink lower and lower as it goes on. Here is a short, time-lapse reenactment of what was going through my increasingly flabbergasted mind as the movie progressed:

Wow, this miscarriage scene is going on a bit long. And now we’ve gotta see the bloody baby, too? All right, I’ll chalk it up to their trying to start the movie with a bang.

Wait a minute, why is Vera Farmiga’s character Kate regularly taking brown pills the size of rat turds? Okay, that’s a bit odd, but when in Connecticut…

Esther just cut short Kate’s birds-and-the-bees lecture with a curt, “I know: they f—.” Not to be a prude, but isn’t the actress who plays Esther, Isabelle Fuhrman, only 12?

Hey, now she’s pointing a gun at her tiny deaf sister? That just doesn’t seem…


Oh dear: “If I find out that you’re lying, I’ll cut your hairless [let’s say, “weenie”] off before you even know what it’s for.” Again: 12 years old. Well, can’t get worse than that, right?

Hold on, what’s she doing?…Why so much makeup? Esther’s looking a little tarty…and she’s sitting a bit close to her dad…and, wait, what’s she doing with his hair? Oh my God…

I need some bleach and an eyedropper, stat.

By the time deaf tyke was aiming a gun like the preschool version of Reginald VelJohnson at the end of Die Hard, I had lost the ability to be disturbed.

I’m not saying I wasn’t entertained, mind you. Sometimes a movie is so absurdly over-the-top that you can’t help but be carried away with it. And Orphan‘s unapologetic lunacy even trumped the fact that the movie was a grab bag of evil-tot clichés: Some were broad tropes, like A) having one obligatorily oblivious parent who thinks the other is crazy for suspecting the child, and B) having the little girl repeatedly warble an innocent old song like her theme song until it becomes as eerie as if she were humming the theme from Jaws. (And what an odd choice, “The Glory of Love.” Don’t creepy tots usually gravitate toward nursery rhymes, rather than old Dean Martin hits?) And then there were the very specific homages, like Kate’s imprisonment under the ice, straight out of Damien: Omen II. (It’s all for you, Esther!) But even with all those familiar touches, it still managed to out-wack its predecessors and reach new heights of insanity.

It’s a tribute to just how bonkers Orphan is that I still had a shockingly good time, even though I have so many bad things to say about it. Like, how did such an exploitative script get indie stalwarts Farmiga and Skarsgaard involved? And what made Farmiga want to make another bad seed movie? (Check out 2007’s creepier yet less violent Joshua, which is, perhaps, the only postpartum-depression horror movie ever made.) And finally, I understand why adoptive parents were insulted by the film’s insidiously threatening take on adoption. But why cast such a limited net? There’s something for all parents to get creeped out by here: What kind of mother or father read this script and said, “Sexual come-ons and violence? Now this is something I want my daughter to be a part of!” When it was over, I went right to IMDB, hoping to find out that Fuhrman was actually a very young-looking 18. Nope, she’s 12 now, which means she might have been 11 when she filmed this. I kept thinking about that scene in Bruno when he asks all the overeager stage parents if their children would be comfortable doing all sorts of awful things for a photo shoot, and they all say yes. “Would my daughter Isabelle be all right stabbing her movie father repeatedly in the chest, soon after coming on to him? Phew, is that all? I was worried that you’d want her to French kiss a goat. Which is not off the table, mind you.”

And yet even as I stand here on my high ground…I liked the movie. So the hell with my morals.

So what did you think of Orphan: were you repulsed, entertained, or did you multitask by alternating between the two? Did you see the twist coming? And did it bother you seeing a preteen actress put in these situations? Oh, and one other thing: Wasn’t that treehouse unreasonably high? I’m no architect, but they were just looking for trouble with that one. I don’t even want to know how high they have their swingset jacked up.

Before we open the discussion, a point of order: the next Club will not convene until August 20th, as I’m out on vacation for the next two weeks in a land where the internet can’t reach me. Now, for the long-range assignment. We’ve done comedy, reality, and horror, so why not sci-fi? Let’s all check out District 9, which I have high hopes for. (And which was also recommended by a Club member.) It doesn’t hit theaters until August 14, so it’ll be fresh in our minds when we reassemble on the 20th. See you then!

Photo Credit: Rafy