Kate (Vera Farmiga The Departed, The Manchurian Candidate) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard The Skeleton Key, Flightplan) adopt Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a well-mannered, intelligent 9-year-old girl with a dark side. Soon after her arrival, Esther shows her true, psychotic self while manipulating the entire family. This movie starts out pretty slow as they give a background of the family—a lot of this could have been cut, especially considering the movie is just over two hours long. Once Esther arrives, however, the pace picks up and really doesn’t slow much, all the way up to a thrilling ending. Farmiga seems a weird choice for the role—I can’t decide if it is her or the character that annoyed me so much. There is no debate on son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), however—he's horrible. Aryana Engineer does a good job as Max the youngest child, and Sarsgaard is good as John, but Fuhrman really steals the show with her performance here. I generally do not find children scary in movies, but Fuhrman is absolutely creepy in this role, and her performance really deserved a lot more attention than it received.
To say she carries this movie is an understatement. CCH Pounder (The Shield) also shows up and, of course, gives a good performance as well. Some of this film is just brutal, some will have you on the edge of your seat, and some is really bizarre. There is also a twist in the end that is pretty effective. If you can get past the two bad performances and the slow start, you will find a rather good movie that I enjoy a lot.
On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8