What's strange is not the skill and strength with which Esther, the seemingly, 9-year-old, adopted daughter, murders and maims. What's strange is that Vera Farmiga who plays Esther's adopted mother was in a film two years ago that was exactly like this one. It was called Joshua (2007).
The differences were the psychotic child was a boy and he wasn't adopted. Joshua was about a young pre-teen who conspired to kill his sibling. It was way more realistic. It didn't succumb to all the same, lame, horror-movie conventions than this one does. It was smarter and not as gross.
Besides having the same actress, there were other similarities. In both cases, the child was always very well dressed. Both played classical, piano music. Both self-mutilated. Both caused marital problems by driving the mother away and latching onto the father.
Critics have made comparisons to other films like The Bad Seed (1956) or The Omen (1976). My comparison, however, immediately goes to the film for which I wrote my very first movie review, which also draws parallels to this new film.
Joanna Simms was my film teacher at Caesar Rodney High School back in the 90s. She got me to appreciate film as an art. She helped me to learn how to look not only at but also beyond the images to analyze and comprehend deeper meanings in film. One of her first assignments was for her class to write a movie review. I had never written one before, but I picked a movie that had just been released on VHS. It was called The Good Son (1993).
It similarly took place in a snowy and icy setting. It coincidentally involved parents who lose a child. It too incorporated sibling jealousy. It also had children hurting animals, a scene that's a true tree house of horror, as well as an ice skating sequence on a thin, frozen pond that had self-same results.
There were so many parallels that I couldn't help but think that this was a rip off. Except, The Good Son was consistently dramatic in tone and increased in tension naturally. This film was all over the map, in many instances, if you can believe it, being very funny.
Farmiga's Kate has Peter Sarsgaard (Flightplan and Jarhead) as her husband John. With Isabelle Fuhrman playing Esther, their creepy, non-related, serial killing child, you have John and Kate plus hate. When over-the-top ridiculous things start happening, instead of dealing with it in sensible regards, they literally laugh it off.
Two Stars out of Five
Rated R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 3 mins.