However, in the case of the Jaume Collet-Serra's horror movie Orphan (2009), I'd amend that proverb to read that it is also the lack of trust that makes for unhappy unions.
Case in point: Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Saarsgard).
They're an affluent American couple raising two children, young Danny (Jimmy Bennett) and little Max (Aryana Engineer), who is virtually deaf. Despite a recent personal tragedy (a third Coleman child, Jessica, is born dead...), the surface life of this couple appears normal.
Scratch that surface a little, however, and it bleeds.
Viewers can detect that these parents no longer trust another; that they are alienated from one another. Sure, the Colemans may love one another, but faith and belief is gone. John has confessed to a decade-old sexual infidelity (but his confession came only two years ago...) and Kate is a recovering alcoholic. In fact, her alcoholism was nearly responsible for the death of Max on an icy pond some time back.
As Orphan begins, Kate is on anti-depressants, in therapy, and resisting John's attempts to re-establish physical intimacy. She is depressed, but no longer wants to "be like this." As in the case of so many modern marriages, John and Kate soon seek hope and purpose outside their problem relationship and decide to adopt a third child: a nine year old orphan named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). In very short order, this manipulative, malevolent "child" successfully scratches the surface of the Coleman marriage and brings all the roiling, bleeding undercurrents to the surface.
But even before the evil-to-her-rotten-core Esther enters the picture, Orphan informs the audience that the Colemans are distant from one another emotionally. Commendably, the picture does so mostly in terms of production design and visuals. The Coleman family house is a study in blacks, grays and silvers. It is a cold, sterile, austere place. The iced-over pond just outside the homestead is a metaphor for Kate's emotionally-fragile condition: frozen over; frigid. And all around, the snow falls incessantly, burying any real hopes of an emotional thaw. In the movie's climax, Kate must navigate a blizzard to save her family and then crash through the walls of the house; a metaphor, perhaps, for the emotional impediments that the Colemans have put up, blocking their intimacy.
Esther, of course, is the proverbial bad seed, a bullying, psychotic who hides a terrible and incredible secret. But the fact remains: the Colemans would not have proved such easy pickings for this predator if the couple had just listened to one another; if they still fostered some sense of trust.
Part of the reason that Orphan works as well as it does is because the writer, David Leslie Johnson, proves skilled in observing how men and women relate to one another, particularly within the confines of marriage. Once John Coleman embraces little Esther as part of his family, he is loyal to her to a fault; to the point of dangerous denial. It's easier for him to blame Kate (and her recent history of alcoholism) than to face an unwelcome new truth.
As for Kate Coleman, she makes her case against Esther with such histrionics and emotionalism (and physical rages...) that it is easy to disregard her arguments about Esther as being the product of a jealous, overly-emotional, depressed mind. At one point, Kate tells John she's tired of "connecting the dots" for him, and that, in particular, has the ring of truth to it. John is pretty darn clueless, and ultimately he pays for that. And Kate is so impulsive that Esther can play her like a piano.
Orphan is filled with nicely-staged, small moments involving John and Kate. Early on, John attempts gently to initiate sex, and is put off, not in ugly or mean terms...just in routine, "not now," marital ones. Later, when the couple does have sex (in the kitchen), they momentarily bonk heads during the act of passion and giggle about it like embarrassed kids. It's awkward, but it's also real. We get the impression of a real couple; one in crisis, but also in love.
These small observances about John, Kate and their relationship are important, because so much of Orphan revolves around Esther's ability to totally play and thus derail the Colemans. She is a "Big," Dramatic Evil (expertly played by Furhman), but the solid, understated and human performances of Saarsgard and Farmiga are what prevent Orphan from lapsing into overwrought, hysterical camp.
Orphan runs for over two hours and it maintains a sense of reality and paranoia for a good duration of its running time, even despite Esther's almost cartoonish look (which includes a Little Bo Peep outfit) as well as some over-the-top violence (much of it involving a hammer...). One scene on a playground employs point-of-view camera-work successfully enough that you nearly forget the whole scene is ridiculous; that the "imperiled" character is not alone there (parents and children are all around...); and that the Esther cannot bend the rules of time and space to get ahead of her prey and pop-up just in time to push her off a slide. It's Babes in Scareland, and it's sort of silly.
Over the years, there have been many films about "evil" children, and most reviews of Orphan have dutifully noted that cinematic history. Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed (1956) was a sociopath so dangerous that Mother Nature had to take her out. Damien was The Anti-Christ in The Omen (1976). Macauley Culkin was The Good Son (1993), and that mostly-forgotten film featured some of the same wintry settings and inter-family emotional alienation that dominate Orphan.
But here's the thing: all the "evil" children commentary is kind of off-point and off-the-mark given the audacious twist that Orphan unveils with such devilish delight in the third act. Esther doesn't really and truly fit the bill of Evil Child. Half of the description "Evil Child" is a red herring. Thus, this movie is of a piece with another, different sub genre. It's really an example of the Interloper Horror Film that was so popular in the 1990s.
In this sub genre, a secretive stranger comes into a family unit and shatters boundaries, sows mistrust, and spreads chaos. That stranger could be a nanny (The Guardian , The Hand That Rocks The Cradle ), a tenant in the apartment downstairs (Pacific Heights , a new roommate (Single White Female , or even a new pet dog who isn't what he seems (Man's Best Friend ). But the crux of all these films is that the Interloper pushes, shoves, and inveigles his/her way into an existing family/interpersonal unit, and then subverts it. That's Esther's agenda in Orphan too. She's a classic Interloper.
And Esther's evil agenda could not -- would not -- work, if all was well in the Coleman house. So Orphan isn't truly about Esther...it's about a marriage (and a family) on the precipice, and Esther is the Interloper who kicks it off the cliff. If Saarsgard and Farmiga weren't so authentic in their roles here, so committed to their performances Orphan wouldn't really work as well as it does
An Evil Kid is one thing. But a marriage without trust is really scary.