THE ORPHAN KILLER
Since I’ve had my site up and running, I’ve had the opportunity to watch plenty of different films for review purposes. Some were sent to me by filmmakers, others were ones that I inquired about. A while ago I found out about Vimeo on Demand, which is the current platform being used for initially releasing a film online. It’s a site where you can pay a very reasonable price to either stream a particular film (available for you to view for up to 48 hours), or for that bit extra, buy it and watch it whenever you like. I think this is a rather useful tool, especially for indie filmmakers who wish to promote their work, which may otherwise never end up being distributed or officially released. While randomly searching some of the horror content on the site, I came across “The Orphan Killer”, a film that was made back in 2011, but wasn’t released until 2013 (I think, but don’t quote me on it). The film is directed by Matt Farnsworth, and at a guess I would say the budget mustn’t have been more than $100,000. You’re able to watch film trailers at no cost, which is another cool aspect of the site. I watched The Orphan Killer trailer and thought it looked pretty impressive, so I went ahead and bought it and have since just finished watching it. The Orphan Killer is a slasher film about serial killer, Marcus Miller (played by David Backus), who has his mind-set on teaching his estranged sister Audrey (the lovely Diane Foster), a lesson about the importance of family. As young children, the two experienced an extremely traumatic ordeal, and haven’t been the same since. Audrey is a teacher at a catholic school, trying to live some kind of normal existence in the hopes of leaving events with her brother in the past. What she doesn’t know is that Marcus is hellbent on exacting his revenge and is coming for her. The film also stars Matt Farnsworth and Edward Winrow.
If this was shot for around the budget that I’ve estimated it at, the production value is even more impressive than I first thought. The film opens with a bloodied and bruised girl on top of a roof, trying to fend off a masked, axe wielding maniac, and then cut. No that wasn’t her being cut (haha). Instead, we get a bunch of nice establishing shots of a car driving through the city, and eventually lands on the aforementioned girl, as she kisses her boyfriend and walks inside a church/school. This is the first time we get to see into Audrey’s life, and thus begins some pretty early character development. The film contains a sufficient amount of background information on both the killer Marcus, and his sister Audrey. Early on, some of the girls at the catholic school divulge some of the history about Marcus and what happened years before. As the film progresses, a couple of scenes showing the two as kids, and what their family life was like, are interwoven with what’s happening present day.
Most of the shot choices are really smart and effective, and the camera work is mostly good. Occasionally they opted for a few odd angles or unnecessarily complicated shots, when something easier would have sufficed. At the beginning there are a lot of aerial shots that were pointless and didn’t add anything to the look of the film. I couldn’t figure out if it was stock footage or not, I’m not sure why they chose to shoot so many of those. The audio got better as the film progressed, but in the beginning I noticed some inconsistencies between scenes in the church and school, in comparison to those where Marcus was located. Most of the lighting really helps set the mood, and other than a few shots in the church, it all works well. I liked a lot of the heavy metal and hardcore song choices as well. I’m a fan of that genre of music, so usually I like when those songs are incorporated, but The Orphan Killer didn’t need those heavy tones. I think the movie would have worked a lot better with a much more classic, suspense score. The suspense is the aspect that’s missing here. It’s obvious during several scenes that the tension is totally lacking. You should feel like your on the edge of your seat, but you don’t. Don’t panic just yet though, The Orphan Killer saves itself, by making you squirm during some of the more graphic sequences.
Perfectly segueing me into the part all you horror buffs want to know about, the blood and the gore. Does The Orphan Killer have what it takes to stand out from the masses??, yes and no, I will get to the basis of the story and the no later (haha). This is very ambitious when it comes to the blood and gore department. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the kills and the aftermath of them. I’m happy to report that inside the first ten minutes, we get the first of a series of extremely brutal kills. Anyone who has read a horror review here at adamthemoviegod, knows my Rule 1 of Slasher 101, is that you kill someone off inside the first 15 minutes. The kills here are delivered at break neck speeds, and the copious amounts of blood is ridiculous. When I say ridiculous, I mean ridiculously cool! Kudos to the entire makeup and effects crew, but most importantly it’s truly a credit to the actors and actresses, because they went balls out for the entire duration. Every single person in this film got saturated in blood and gore, and it all looks absolutely amazing, and more importantly it’s all practical. I don’t want to spoil any of the action sequences so just let me say, you will not be disappointed. This is one of the goriest indie film’s I have ever seen, it’s up there with the best of them, so well done guys!
I touched on some of those early establishing shots and the inconsistent audio already. But as far as technical aspects go, most things were solid. Some of the editing and cuts were a little rushed here and there, and the color grading seems to change in several shots. Most fans of the genre know, those are the types of inconsistencies you see when working with a small budget or time constraints, so it’s somewhat forgivable. I forgot to mention the acting in this one, which is of a pretty good standard when you take into consideration the limited experience of the cast. A few of the reactions from the secondary characters were a bit forced, and it would have been nice to see the victims put up more of a fight, but that’s just my usual griping (haha). It’s really Diane that has to hold this movie together, because she appears in just about every scene. She looks great, and emotionally she hits her mark 90 percent of the time. You can’t ask for much more than that from your lead actress, so well done Diane!
The biggest issue with The Orphan Killer, is that it’s clearly guilty of borrowing a lot of its content and structure from iconic films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. I know that we are all influenced by certain things we see, and you have to get inspiration from somewhere. However, everything from this core plot idea of the estranged brother and sister battling each other, to the mask wearing killer, that looks like a mash-up of Jason, Chromeskull, and a member of Heavy Metal band, Slipknot it’s all be done before. I can’t think of anything that The Orphan Killer brings to the table that hasn’t been done before, and that’s not a good sign. Bare with me through this though, I’m not one of those critics that’s going to slam something for being unoriginal, or for even engineering scenes that are straight out of other films. Sure you have to dock the stars accordingly when you rate it, but you don’t have to count it out. It’s more about the way in which The Orphan Killer is structured, that makes it more noticeable. The momentum is stifled several times throughout and mostly because of the sequencing.
The structure of this, makes it difficult to understand the hatred Marcus has in the beginning. Keep in mind, the viewer doesn’t quite know the details surrounding what’s happened with him and his sister in the past. Eventually, all the details come out so you know Marcus’s motive and overall goal, but it would be much stronger if a little more time was spent in building that part up. Some of the content feels all over the place, and even the locations become confusing at times. It almost feels like this whole movie was shot in one place, and I’m sure that’s not the case. From what I could see (maybe I missed something while jotting down notes), the school and church were one in the same. I’m assuming the basement was the basement of the school too. At one point, Marcus is in an orphanage, but other than the flashes of memory surrounding the past, the location still felt like the school, nothing seemed clear at all. The details were only obvious when they wanted you to identify with something. Such as, Audrey’s police officer boyfriend, Mike Hunt (played by Farnsworth himself). It seemed awful convenient that he was a cop. Personally I thought it was a rather lame plot point. I’m not sure he had any relevance to the story, other than obviously at the very end (in which I was hoping for a slightly different outcome). Those of you who are like me, will be hoping that Marcus sticks his head out and get’s it lopped off, while the rest of his body falls down the ladder underneath him, sadly no (haha), maybe in the sequel.
After I finished The Orphan Killer, I read a lot of other reviews for it. Most of which were unfair in their attempt at actually critiquing it. It’s rare you find a film that’s going to reinvent the genre, so do us all a favor and either lower the bar a bit or stop watching these types of film’s, because you frustrate me. You will get no argument from me, when it comes to the unoriginal killer and story content in this one. If you are watching these types of films solely for story or a new fresh looking killer, then most of them are going to disappoint you. In this day and age, it’s not a realistic mindset to have while watching something like this. I try to focus on the positives where I can, and I didn’t find anything in this movie that I really got hung up on. The Orphan Killer is shot crisply and interestingly, and it’s got a great lead performance from the gorgeous Diane Foster. The most important thing is that, finally something delivers on the blood and gore that it promised. The effects, kills, and body count are all super impressive, fans of the genre have to buy this movie. You will regret it if you don’t!
Below will be a link to the official website where you can purchase a hard copy of the film, please also rate this for free on Imdb, it’s travesty that it sits at 3.8!!.
My rating for “The Orphan Killer” is 7/10