Social worker Emily is suspicious of a family when their quietly-spoken 10-year-old girl starts getting unexpected low grades and falling asleep in class. When the parents are discovered trying to kill the child in their oven, they are sent to psychiatric hospital and the girl, Lily, is placed in a children's home. After begging Emily to look after her instead, the social worker agrees. But things are not at all how they seem. And neither is Lily.
The first half of the film presents as a dark drama, with an intriguing story, and I assumed this would be similar to Orphan (2009). But half way through, it suddenly switches into a supernatural horror, which lost some of its credibility with me. And by the time it reaches its climax, it all becomes slightly ridiculous. I could have tolerated the improbabilities and plot holes of the film up to that point, but the final scenes just pushed it over the edge for me.
The casting for the film is odd. Although Renee Zellweger gives a decent performance as Emily, I did find her a bit unconvincing as a social worker. Ian McShane (TV's Lovejoy) and Adrian Lester (TV's Hustle) seem slightly awkward and mis-cast to me. It's ironic that the film features an American actress most famous for playing British, and two British actors that are playing American. However, it's Jodelle Ferland who steals the show with her astonishing performance as the girl at the centre of everything, Lily.
Technically, the film is reasonably good. There are few gore effects but they are not bad. In one scene a character is attacked by hornets, which would have been amazing had it not been let down by the obvious use of CGI. I liked the set design, particularly in Lily's family home. And an atmosphere of tension and creepiness is created well at various points. However there are a few cheap jump-scares I could have lived without, which don't do the movie's credibility any favours.
I didn't dislike the film, despite all its shortcomings, and I was entertained throughout. But while it isn't terrible, it isn't particularly memorable either. It doesn't offer anything new, and I would have probably been disappointed if I'd paid full price for cinema tickets to watch it. But as a late night TV movie, or a bargain bin DVD, it's ok. Just ok. 3/5