Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) are a married couple with two children, and are about to adopt a third. Too bad they pick Esther, a nine-year-old sociopath (Isabelle Fuhrman) who does stuff like push girls off playground equipment, kill a nun (CCH Pounder), and terrorize her adopted siblings (Jimmy Bennett, Aryana Engineer). Kate sees through her act fairly quickly, but faces contention from John at every turn. When even Kate’s therapist (Margo Martindale) is on Esther’s side, Kate has to prove she’s not delusional and give Esther a time-out.
Evil children are not a new movie topic, but this one has a neat twist that turns the sub-genre on its head. Furthermore, the performances are great, from the adults to the children, particularly Fuhrman as Esther. (Though I have to admit at times I have trouble taking seriously her fake Russian accent; she does it well, but her lightly scratchy voice makes her sound exactly like Dexter from the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory, especially when she says “seester”–see below.) Generally the dialogue is pleasing as well; my only complaint is Kate’s cry of “I’m not your fucking mommy!” It was a godawful line in The Ring II, and it’s not any better here. But overall it’s good watchin‘.
I saw this in the theatre when I was two and a half months pregnant, and while I was fine I don’t necessarily recommend it to any prospective parents. It opens with a miscarriage and makes adoption look unpalatable too. Check it out either if you really love kids (and thus won’t be affected) or don’t like them at all.