Before I had actually gotten a chance to view The Orphan Killer, I had heard a lot about the film. It seemed to have quite the reputation. I had heard mostly positive reviews on various message boards and as a guy who loves a good slasher flick, I just had to see it. Back in 2012 I got my hands on a copy of the movie and fell in love. I watched it multiple times that first week, showing to some of my other horrorphile fans. I just recently purchased a copy of the special edition Blu-ray and watched it again, prompting this review.
The Orphan Killer tells the story of Marcus Miller, who along with his sister Audrey, witnesses the unfortunate murder of their parents during a home invasion. Now orphans, the Miller children end up at a Catholic orphanage in New Jersey. Audrey is eventually adopted, leaving Marcus at the orphanage alone. Not one to relinquish his role as troublemaker, Marcus is treated rather cruelly by some of his caretakers, and is forced to wear a grotesque mask and be exiled from the rest of the children. Many years later Marcus (still masked) re-enters his sister’s life to teach her a lesson about family loyalty.
Writer and director Matt Farnsworth really hits a homerun with this film. I’ve seen a plethora of reviews of this movie recently that absolutely destroy it, and I don’t quite get it. While the plot may not be something overly complicated, and there isn’t a heavy emphasis on character development, it’s a slasher movie and it does just fine. There isn’t a TON of dialogue, but there doesn’t really need to be. In my opinion, the dialogue that is there is perfectly fine. You can’t expect every independent horror film to be Poltergeist or Silence of the Lambs. These films must be interpreted within their context, and that means TOK is a success in my opinion.
The thing that really stands out for me are the practical effects. It is no secret that I am a gore-hound, with a bit of a disdain for over done CGI gore. For an independent horror film, I thought Farnsworth’s movie had some great practical effects. The kills were insanely brutal, and rather than effectively using jump cuts the viewer has the privilege of seeing just about every bloody detail (I’m thinking bathroom decapitation…). While the kills themselves are horrendously vicious, there still remains an element of humanity in Marcus Miller that is a welcome change in the modern slasher film. You feel for him, given his past, and the fact that he does talk a little bit makes him easier to relate to than a mute figure. Surely his ghastly deeds cannot be rationalized away, but you can’t help but think that his past life situations have driven him to this mad condition.
Overall, I do not find The Orphan Killer to be lacking in much. Effective kills, an interesting plot, and a kick-ass soundtrack all add up to a pretty entertaining romp through the life of a contemporary slasher. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Matt Farnsworth puts out (he has expressed an interest in doing a sequel and a web series based on Marcus Miller). Don’t be afraid of The Orphan Killer, get yourself a copy and watch it!