Matt Farnsworth’s The Orphan Killer has been hailed as “the new horror icon of the 21st century”, it’s main antagonist Marcus Miller has been called the “next Jason or Michael Myers” and the film has even been labeled “a game-changer” for the slasher sub-genre…pretty heavy burden for a low-budget indie to step into (but Halloween itself was a low-budget indie, no?). Critics on the other side have said it was at best a “fair time-waster”, at worst a “pointless piece of shit”. Listening to and reading what my peers in the horror community have had to say, the opposing camps remain the same; everything I heard going in was a hardcore, daylight/dark split: euphoric lovers (THIS IS THE MOST FANTASTIC SLASHER EVER, I’M NAMING MY FIRSTBORN MARCUS! ) and venom-spouting haters (I WOULDN’T PISS ON THIS TRASH, GARGLING WITH DRANO AND CRUSHED GLASS WOULD BE BETTER! ).
Although not always the case, such polar division over a film typically means I’m gonna like it=)
The plot is a half-twist and a tuck on what has gone before: Audrey is a drama coach/ballet teacher/some kind of stage boss for a teen dance ensemble at a church, and tonight is the big show. Some of her dancers tell us through their conversation that there’s a legend of a crazy murderer locked away in the attic of the church, and that it’s believed to be Audrey’s brother. You see, the two heard their parents murdered when they were very young; the state had to put the siblings in the care of the church orphanage. Audrey got adopted, her brother Marcus did not…and that blew his young mind and made him a psycho-killer. Guess what? The legend is true, and Marcus is out tonight, here at the church, and he’s looking for a little family reunion.
You don’t need much more of a storyline than that (and God knows, I’ve sat through countless slashers with far less; it’s a little contrived, but so what? It’s a slasher film ), and things get rolling fairly quickly. For a small budget outing, the production looks pretty polished; there’s some occasional shakiness in the camera work that didn’t seem intentional, and quite a bit of choppy editing, but overall, I thought it was well done (and considering Farnsworth was the writer, director, sound designer, editor, and acted in the movie, I raise that “well done” to “pretty impressed”). Oh, you say you want gore? You got it. The gore effects were plentiful and brutal; some scenes were pretty over the top, but that’s personally what I want in a slasher. Something pretty to look at on your list? You got that, too. Diane Foster as Audrey gives us our obligatory sexy shower shots, but she wasn’t just eye candy; she also plays out the character as believable and sympathetic. For what one typically sees from a buxom blonde in an indie horror flick, her performance was a refreshing turn (my submitted evidence: there’s a scene where she’s being systematically tortured by our buddy Marcus; instead of devolving into tired ol’ torture-porn, the scene has us witness the pain and terror just by watching her pained face in close-up; I found this very effective, and salute Foster on that performance). And finally, what of Marcus, The Orphan Killer himself? Well, I found him menacing enough, although I can’t honestly say I felt that he brought anything new to the table for slasher baddies. I’ll just say he was fitting for the scope of the film; he was certainly brutal enough, and some of his dialogue (yes, dialogue!) was intriguing and even comical (although at times the comedic efforts were a bit too forced). Seeing through flashbacks what contributed to his psychosis was quite interesting (I’m sure that some parts of it would greatly piss off some religious folks, but who’s to say?), and I’ll give props to Farnsworth for a nice take on a slasher origin.
The only real complaint I have is the soundtrack: I’m a fan of metal, but I think this movie just might have stepped up a notch with a more creepy, low-toned and brooding soundtrack…the death metal pursuits and guitar riff bloodbaths just didn’t work for me.
All in all, my verdict is a positive one. Do I think it’s “the next big thing”? Not necessarily; I myself didn’t find anything new or innovative enough to ratchet it up there with names like Halloween or Friday the 13th. However, I will watch this one again…and for me, that is one of the highest marks a slasher film can get.
I say check it out.