Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Aryana Engineer, Jimmy Bennett
Running time: 122mins
After the loss of their 3rd child just before they were born Kate (Vera Farmiga) is left feeling that something is missing from their lives. She and her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt an older child to fill the void and allow them to give the love they had for their lost baby to someone who would appreciate it. After some thought they arrive at the orphanage and John happens across Esther, a quiet, bright, composed and self assured little girl of Russian origin. She is a little bit quirky with her dress sense and attitudes but seems very nice and a good addition to the family.
Kate and John’s other children have a mixed reaction to their new sibling. Max, the youngest is very welcoming whereas Danny is broody and maybe jealous of this intruder, maybe because he is more aware of the implications of a new addition.
From the early moments that she is in the house it is clear that there is something not quite right about Esther, she is very secretive and plots to get her own way. As she is different she is an obvious target when she attends school, from one girl in particular and from this moment on the manipulative nature becomes a little more sinister as she actively works her way into destroying the family and any attempts to reveal her past, and is particularly aimed towards Kate whilst ensuring that John remains on her side.
The story works really well and the director does a good job of revealing slowly and building to a pretty good finale, keeping the suspense and tension all the way through to the end. It was only afterwards that I realised that it is Jaume Collet-Serra who directed this film and he has done well with this and the other film I have seen of his this year, The Shallows and previously with Unknown. One to keep an eye on!
The thing that struck me the most is that I realised that the role of Esther is such a fantastic role for a youngster to play. Entirely something that most young actors don’t get the chance to do, particularly the ending as it is most un-childlike. Isabelle Fuhrman puts in an exceptional performance as Esther.
Horror Rating: ★★★☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★★½☆