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It's like The Good Son. Only, sicker.

One of the few things on which pianist Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) agrees with her apathetic architect husband, John Coleman (Peter Saarsgard), is that a drastic change is needed to save their rocky marriage. With the burden of John's past infidelity, the emotional distance of their rebellious adolescent son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), and the helplessness of their deaf younger daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer), Kate's loss of her third baby in childbirth broke her sanity and drowned her in a sea of alcoholism.

In an attempt to find an alternative outlet of love meant for their stillborn child, the Colemans take in a mysterious 9-year-old Russian orphan called Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) into their family. Max, in her innocence, was ecstatic to finally have a big sister; Daniel was less than enthusiastic due to the bullying he receives at school due to her eccentricities.

Polite and creative, Esther initially had a sensitivity and charm that began to thaw the frozen hearts of the Coleman couple... and that's when people around them started getting hurt.

General Tropes

  • Adult Fear: Nonstop.
  • The Alcoholic / Drowning My Sorrows: Kate, formerly.
  • Asshole Victim: The bully who gets her ankle broken.
    • And possibly Danny.
    • Ditto John. Perhaps not an asshole in the traditional sense, but his insistence on believing Esther's word over his freaking wife and his wilful ignorance of evidence staring him in the face loses him a lot of sympathy.
  • Black Chick Dies First: Poor Sister Abigail.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Max.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Danny, when Esther threatens him with a box cutter.
  • Cassandra Truth: In spades. Kate knows Esther is a psychopath, but has no evidence.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several. The revolver, Max's hearing aids, the treehouse key, the second bottle of wine, and, of course, Esther's paintings.
  • Children Are Innocent: Max, so much that you'll want to hug her from her very first scene. The same cannot be said for anyone else.
  • Cute Mute: Adorable little Max.
  • Downer Ending: Sure, Kate kills Esther Leena, but John is most likely dead, who knows what kind of brain damage Danny has from being smothered, and poor little Max...
    • The alternate ending is ten times worse, if you assume that "Esther" succeeds in fooling the police officers. Not only will she probably be adopted by another unwitting, innocent family, but poor Kate, the woman who stood in Leena's way of romancing John and nearly succeeded in killing her? Yeah, Leena knows where she lives. And considering Kate would have no proof in this situation that she wasn't a mentally slipping alcoholic like everyone around her believes, good luck convincing anyone that that sweet, innocent girl could decide to come murder her and her family.
      • It's highly unlikely that "Esther" would have fooled the police - she's covered in blood, smiling as happy as clam, despite the dead body and the house having been wrecked, not to mention the police were notified of an intruder. It wouldn't take take a genius for them to figure out the girl was off her rocker, it's more depressing in the fact that you realize this girl has really lost it.
      • Unless the police assume that the intruder wrecked the house and hurt "Esther". her demeanor could come off to the police as post-traumatic stress.
      • Esther would be taken by the police to be examined by a doctor as a matter of course. As soon as that happens all of Kate's allegations about Esther would be proven beyond all doubt
  • Dysfunction Junction: On both the villainous and heroic sides.
  • Executive Meddling: In the original script, Danny was supposed to die and Esther's backstory was supposed to be better explained, making her more sympathetic and her actions of pretending to be a child to seduce John make more sense.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: Esther attempts to seduce John. When he turns her down, she stabs him with a kitchen knife and does not stop until well after he's dead.
  • Groin Attack: Threatened, but not executed.

  Esther: (holding a box cutter between Danny's legs) If I find out that you're lying, I'll cut your hairless little prick off before you even figure out what it's for.

  • HSQ: High.
  • Idiot Ball: Having sex in a part of the house that's meant to be used by the entire family. As a result, they get caught by Esther.
    • To be fair, they did assume Esther was in bed at the time.
      • They still have three kids, not just Esther. Any of them could have woken up.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Subverted when Max picks up the revolver that Kate had dropped earlier and aims it at Esther, but ends up shooting the ice they're standing on instead.
  • Infant Immortality: Although subverted in an earlier draft of the script in which Esther murders a 7-year-old girl the Colemans had been planning to adopt, and she is found hung in a closet.
    • Not to mention Danny was also supposed to die in the script.
  • Jerkass: The boys that Danny hangs out with. But Danny himself is a Jerkass Woobie.
  • Kick the Dog: Esther cutting the flowers that Kate and John's stillborn child's ashes were scattered over and presenting them to the former in a bouquet.
    • Esther reading excerpts from Kate's diary (regarding her miscarriage) out loud.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: On Esther's first day of school, a girl named Brenda makes fun of her. Later, Esther comes up behind Brenda and shoves her off the slide, breaking her ankle.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The girls who bully Esther at school, and Danny and his friends.
  • Mirror Scare: Both subverted and played straight. The first time Kate goes to the medicine cabinet, she closes the door to find nothing, the second time it's John standing behind her in a fake scare.
  • Porn Stash: In Danny's treehouse. "Page 43 will change your life." "Hey, that looks like your mom!!"
  • Precision F-Strike: "I'm not your fucking mommy!"
  • Primal Scene: But don't worry, Esther understands.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The movie was supposed to take place in the fall, but a record snow fall hitting the filming location during filming changed this to the winter, in turn eliminating a scene in the script at a Halloween carnival at Danny and Esther's school. Some might say the winter atmosphere helped make the movie more creepy.
  • Replacement Goldfish: A tale of this trope in action, gone horribly, horribly wrong.
  • Russian Roulette: "Want to play?"
  • Sickbed Slaying: Danny. He survives, though.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "The Glory of Love" plays over a disturbing, UV paint-splattered credits reel.
  • This! Is! SPARTA!: "I'm not! Your fucking! MOMMY!!"
  • Took a Level In Badass: Max at the end.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sure, the first few results of Esther's psychopathy could be chalked up to coincidence. But John still refuses to believe Kate after Danny's treehouse mysteriously burns down, putting him in the hospital. When Esther just HAPPENED to be near it at the time. Must've been spontaneous combustion, right?
    • Kate earns some of this for not thinking to call the cops sooner, especially as she is fairly quick to realize that there is something wrong with Esther. Why on earth would she even let her come to the hospital?
      • Kate comes off this way a lot, she doesn't handle her paranoia against Esther rationally and comes off whiny and demanding. Possibly justified a little due to her emotional instability.
  • Vanity Plate: Covered in glow paint to foreshadow Esther's secret layer of her paintings showing her sadistic side.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Ten years before the film's events, John cheated on Kate, although he didn't tell her until many years later.

 John: Let me get this straight: We can talk about my mistakes, but not yours?

Kate: I was sick! You're an asshole who wanted to fuck somebody else!


Tropes that concern Esther (or better said, Leena Klammer). Spoilers dead Ahead!!

That's the story of, that's the glory of love.