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Monday, October 12, 2009

4. Friday The 13th; The Orphan

The Orphan (1979)

Dir. John Ballard
Fight Level: 1.5/10
Scare Type: Psychological
Subgenre: troubled kid, evil stepmother.

The Orphan, which like any 70's indie horror film goes by a bevy of titles, is also known as Friday the 13th: The Orphan. Which makes no sense because this has nothing to do with that date, nor is it at all related to the tedious series which followed it, except that the producers of this film got a nice cash settlement to sell the title.

This is one of those films which is extremely interesting to genre critics and the small circle of academics looking at exploitation films as modernist art, well there's probably not even enough to make a circle. Its the only film made by John Ballard, who I can find nothing about, except that it took him nearly a decade to make this film. The strongest aspect of this film is probably a result of that long process, I've yet to find out what took so long, is its odd use of audio. Voices have no spatial or temporal stability, and little more than an implicit tie to the images.

The film concerns David, the eponymous orphan, trying to live with his strict aunt. Oh, and this is a period piece; its usually the 1920's though it gets a bit iffy at times, which can add an effect. See, David's father was an anthropologist who worked in Africa, and even has Akin, an African friend watch over David. That thread doesn't really go anywhere, except that eventually, after some messy exposition, where we're not sure what happened to his parents, this turns into one of the more bizzare versions of Hamlet I've seen. Here David is told via a stuffed Chimp that his father was murdered. David, begins to act like he thinks African's live, setting up a shrine to the ape, and then begins to carry out revenge as reality becomes very unstable. That sounds quite interesting, but this is a very very very slow film with little pay off. It's a curiosity and a rarity, and it covers some neglected areas in horror, but is barely watchable at times.

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