Released: 1st September
Seen: 2nd December

Orphan: First Kill Info

In 2009 the film Orphan was released to an audience who were there to learn the answer to one fateful question… “What’s wrong with Esther?”. The question of just what was going on with the young girl in the poster is the most notable thing about that movie, its shocking third-act reveal (which I have to assume you know if you’re curious about the prequel, but I’ll hold off on stating it explicitly until the third paragraph just in case) being the thing that elevated the original Orphan into something truly unique and memorable for anyone who saw it.

Despite Orphan being a moderate success, the chances for it getting a sequel were slim since the original film kind of ends like many horror movies do. Namely, it ended with the main antagonist being very dead and since this franchise wasn’t going to go supernatural at any point this doesn’t feel like a killer we can just revive endlessly. So the only option to do another film was a prequel, one that would take 13 years to get made but because this film is a prequel there’s a new set of problems that must be contended with.

See, the big twist of Orphan that changed it from just being a basic variant on The Bad Seed was the revelation that the strange 9-year-old Russian girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) is actually a 33-year-old Estonian woman named Leena who has a genetic disorder that makes her look like a 9-year-old girl. In terms of film twists, this is absolutely top-tier stuff, the kind of insane high-camp reveal that Orphan somehow managed to make believable (OK not Somehow, just due to the fantastic performance by Isabelle Fuhrman). While this is a great twist it means any follow-up film has to either hope the audience forgot about it (not happening, that twist is the most famous thing about this franchise) or somehow work around it, Orphan: First Kill appears to have taken the second option.

With Orphan: First Kill, no time is wasted in making sure everyone is on board with the whole “This is a 33-year-old woman” thing, hammering it in and not even trying to hide it. The film is aware of what the audience knows so they don’t bother trying to play around with it, hell for the first half hour you’d be forgiven for thinking this is just going to be a complete rehash of the original film, except this time we learn that Leena got the name Esther from a missing poster and is actually taking the place of an already existing girl. 

Orphan: First Kill (2022) - Isabelle Fuhrman
Orphan: First Kill (2022) – Isabelle Fuhrman

Still, for a while things play very similarly to the way they played in Orphan, Esther not quite behaving properly, distrust forming between the family, Esther having a weird crush on the dad, it’s the classic stuff that made Orphan so wildly fascinating… and then they figure out where to hide the twist and the film manages to pull off a shocking turn that works for the most part but introduces a strange issue that might only annoy some people. The film’s big twist (Which I will actually avoid talking about in depth because it’s genuinely impressive) kind of makes Esther sympathetic.

Let’s keep in mind that by the time this twist happens, Esther is a murderer and is actively trying to scam a grieving family and either you’re expected to just flat out sympathise with her to some degree or have the line blurred enough that you can at least see where she’s coming from. Now, personally I think the twist is fantastic because it really does force you to either side with someone as undeniably evil as Esther or at the very least make you question if she deserves the treatment she goes through. It’s a wild turn, one that manages to actually sneak in some serious surprises in a film where we are meant to know everything that’s going to happen the second we walk in (Since anyone who has seen Orphan knows about the whole ’33-year-old’ thing AND knows that Esther’s family died in a mysterious fire).

Knowing where this story basically has to end, as its where the original film begins, does remove some of the tension as we know without a shadow of a doubt that Esther’s going to be fine BUT the film seems to be aware of that and in favour of building tension it just goes for being as bonkers as possible. The reveal allows for almost everyone in the cast to completely change their performances mid-movie in a way that’s genuinely incredible, particularly Julia Stiles who plays Esther’s mother Tricia. The reveal also allows for some of the more wild, disturbing imagery, like the director knew he wasn’t going to be able to pull off a “Wait, is she really doing this?” thing again and instead just went with being insane.

Surprisingly, for a prequel, Orphan: First Kill manages to still be genuinely surprising almost right up until the final moments. Even going in knowing a lot of the big things that the first Orphan movie explained to us, there’s enough new stuff here to actually justify the movie and keep it as weird and campy and fun as it is. It’s not subtle or nuanced, it’s loud and gaudy and a bunch of fun. The best part is that they’ve set up the opening in such a way that, if the rumours are true, they really could squeeze at least one more movie out of this insane franchise and another movie where Isabelle Fuhrman runs around looking like a kid while killing idiots sounds like a good time to me.

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