I’d originally written this off, already know how it ends, but after the prequel and The Shallows I reconsidered. Good movie, from the showy opening scene transitions on through the surprising kills, even with advance knowledge that Esther is not an orphan child but a short adult psycho killer.
Horror specialist Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, The Nun) is the psycho’s ex-alkie adoptive mom, already a mom with Peter Sarsgaard to deaf girl Max and older Daniel. First death is unfortunately a bird, then while terrorizing schoolkids and enlisting Max as an ally, Esther finds the time to knock off suspicious nun CCH Pounder. She burns down the boy’s treehouse with him locked inside, finishes the job in hospital, and conspires to make Vera seem crazy and abusive. Dad gets stabbed to death, should’ve believed his wife over the soviet psychopath. Supposedly Esther is drowned in the frozen pond, but the movies never permanently close the door on a good villain.
The critics raved: “one of the most genuinely deranged modern horror films” … “[Jaume] gleefully overcooks this with Farmiga’s eager and crucial assistance” … “[Sarsgaard] has been cast as the most clueless oaf patriarch in the history of the horror genre.”