Directed by John Ballard [Other horror films: N/A]
Sometimes known as, and perhaps only known as, Friday the 13th: The Orphan, this low budget movie from the late 70’s has it’s place. I don’t quite know where that place is, but providing it exists, well, this movie belongs there. The Orphan isn’t a bad film – there are some strong emotional portions and nice use of flashbacks and nightmares – but it’s far more a dry drama than a straight horror, and it doesn’t pick up near enough toward the end to help things out.
As such, the basic story is sort of interesting. A young boy David (Mark Owens) loses his mother and father, and so his aunt on his mother’s side (Peggy Feury) comes to care for him. She’s a strict woman, and also likely quite racist. See, David’s father went to Africa a lot, and brought back plenty of little African things, along with an African friend named Akin (Afolabi Ajayi).
Well, over the course of the first hour of the film, his aunt refers to his father as “bringing him up around filthy things” (Akin was literally standing right there), gets rid of Akin, tries to raise David “properly” (not speaking out of turn, going to church, that tripe). When the cook Mary (Eleanor Stewart) tries to help David, she’s yelled at for not knowing her place, and she’s also fired. Oh, and for good measure, the aunt kills David’s dog (it might have been an accident, but it was also entirely inexcusable).
You might be able to tell that so much of the film is drama. It’s not disengaging, but it is drama, and while you could say that around an hour in, it’s properly built up to something, I don’t really think the finale is grand enough to excuse how long it took to get there.
For a younger actor, Mark Owens does okay. But let’s be honest brahs – very few people here do well. The only performance I actually liked was Afolabi Ajayi, and that’s because I thought his character was dope. Peggy Feury played an uptight and atrocious woman well, I guess, and Eleanor Stewart had her moments, but really, Ajayi is where it’s at.
When it got to more horror-centric stuff, The Orphan wasn’t bad. David had a nightmare in which he’s brought into a really horrible orphanage and has his tongue cut out. Quality. A woman is covered up with a blanket and stabbed, and another person is attacked by a monkey and shot with an elephant gun. All of this is to say when the film veered in that direction, it could be rather entertaining.
Also, I wanted to give kudos to one of the songs that pops up three times throughout the film, being ‘I Need to Live Alone Again’ by Janis Ian. I’m not the biggest Janis Ian fan (I only know a handful of her songs, such as ‘At Seventeen,’ ‘Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking),’ and ‘God & the FBI’), but she has a beautiful voice, and ‘I Need to Live Alone Again’ is a really peaceful song, perfect for a slow-moving drama as so much of The Orphan is.
I also want to add, though this has little relevance to anything, that I have seen The Orphan before, but under rather terrible circumstances. There was a video on YouTube of the film, but it was stuttering. It was like watching a flipbook moving quickly. Each image was still, and so movements were jerky. Truth be told, while I watched the whole thing, I got a terrible headache early on, and so remembered very little of it going into watching it this time around. It’s a good thing I didn’t remember, as it’s possible I would have waited longer to revisit this one.
And that might not be entirely fair, as The Orphan isn’t without it’s strong suits, but it really can be a dull film at times, and the finale isn’t near enough to make up for it. It’s worth seeing if you want to see a woman be racist and kill dogs (that was a harsh scene, on a side-note), but it’s not a film I could see myself watching again anytime soon.