Orphan: First Kill

Orphan: First Kill

After escaping from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Leena Klammer travels to America by impersonating Esther, the missing daughter of a wealthy family. But when her mask starts to slip, she is put against a mother who will protect her family from the murderous “child” at any cost.

  • Released:
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror
  • Stars: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Sarah Luby, Hiro Kanagawa, Stephanie Sy, Erik Athavale, Jade Michael, Lauren Cochrane, Matthew Finlan, Kristen Sawatzky, Kennedy Irwin, Alec Carlos, Parker Bohotchuk, Gwendolyn Collins, Samantha Walkes, David Brown, Jeff Strome, Andrea del Campo, Alicia Johnston, Liam Stewart-Kanigan, Maxwell Nelson, Bradley Sawatzky, Marina Stephenson Kerr, Sharon Bajer, Maxine Sanders, Sadie Lee, Fred Tatasciore, Adam Hurtig, Morgan Easton-Fitzgerald, Dennis Scullard
  • Director: William Brent Bell
  • fernandoschiavi - 5 February 2024
    A good prequel that humanizes Esther, with good isolated scenes and mainly through the tension created by the reversal of the public's expectations after an unexpected twist
    It is true that certain phenomena are almost impossible to predict. Fact is that, despite the lukewarm critical reception and a flood of complaints from parents and adoptive associations, the film "Orphan", by Jaume Collet-Serra, released in 2009, was, over time, elevated to cult status essentially thanks to its surprising plot twist. Therefore, it was to be imagined that sooner or later the work would gain a new chapter. Thus, thirteen years after its release, the prequel "Orphan: First Kill" premieres, directed by William Brent Bell. In the plot, Leena Klammer (Isabelle Fuhrman), a thirty-one-year-old criminal who suffers from hypopituitarism, a rare hormonal disorder that affects growth, escapes from a psychiatric clinic in Estonia and travels to the United States assuming the identity of her father's daughter. Nine years missing from a rich family. However, Leena's new life as Esther is put at risk when she gradually discovers that, like her, the matriarch, Tricia Albright (Julia Stiles), is hiding a secret.

    In the 2009 film, a young Isabelle Fuhrman shocked the world with her performance. In the plot of the first film, the 12-year-old actress played Esther, an adult woman whose growth had been arrested in childhood due to a rare genetic disorder, making her appearance permanently childlike. In 2022, the adult Fuhrman returns to play the child Esther, without special effects, in a prequel that takes place two years before the first film. Director William Brent Bell ("The Boy") made the bold decision to refuse the use of computerized rejuvenation, resorting to old school makeup techniques, using a child stunt double for Fuhrman in the scenes where she appears in full body, in addition to forced perspective and platform shoes, which served to enhance the height difference between Esther and the rest of the characters in shots where Esther appears head-on. It's admirable, even more so in the age of CGI domination, but highly artificial and unconvincing. Which is actually a good indication of how the film should be appreciated.

    It is impossible to ignore the fact that a 25-year-old woman is playing a 10-year-old girl. Furthermore, the first half of the film is marked by a strong feeling of deja-vu, in which it seems that we are watching a mere remake of the original production, including the same interactions between Esther and the family members who welcomed her. Suddenly, the film takes a gigantic and unexpected turn at the end of the second act, embarking on a frantic pace until the end. That's the most that can be said without going into spoilers, but praise is in order for Fuhrman's performance, which manages to deliver several nuances of creating a child psychopath. As much as Esther's primary deception is to deceive everyone with her appearance, it is clear that she suffers from inexperience, making some (many) silly mistakes. Another one who is very good in the production is Julia Stiles, who masterfully plays a mother who will do anything to protect her family.

    The initial moments, in which Leena escapes from the psychiatric hospital, serve well to adjust expectations: everything is a bit forced in a deliciously cheesy way, without any intention of creating something rhythmic or full of metaphors. As much as the first film was understood as a cult thriller, "Orphan" is a franchise that shines as a B-movie of the highest level, and the new feature finally fulfills all this potential. Much of the initial construction of the plot is done to deceive the viewer that this is a serious contextualization of Esther's past. Many of the symbols seen in the original, such as his bracelets, the Saarne Institute or his taste for painting and neon paints, are explored to explain what no one ever asked. It's even a little curious to see how the plot seems to try to repeat the exact suspense construction of the original. The point is that much of this sequence seems strategically designed to be ignored. The notion of an unnecessary prelude lingers throughout much of the film, and it gradually becomes clear that this is intentional. The viewer proudly walks into a trap - in the same way as Esther. A major twist elevates the insanity of the film, which then proves to be much more intelligent than it appeared. In fact, just watch it again to realize that everything that seemed weak, such as the highly expository dialogues, actually works due to the shock of that turning point. The talent of the work is to pretend to be less than it really is, and a large part of the public will easily fall for this tale.

    In the midst of all this, the film really expands on Esther's past, and establishes her as one of the most striking psychopaths in cinema. Without weighing her hand on the journey of maturation, it is clear that the little assassin's technique is quite precarious at first, and that her blow was only polished after breaking her face at the hands of people much worse than her. The film's triumph is to destroy the girl's arrogance in the same way that it breaks that of the audience, who thought they knew how everything would unfold. Although she is no longer convincing as a girl of approximately 12 years old, Isabelle Fuhrman demonstrates the same charisma and wit as the original, with such a charming maniac that it becomes difficult not to hope that her scam succeeds - especially when her situation becomes increasingly more tense. Her presence is accompanied by a very solid cast, with emphasis on the excellent Julia Stiles, who finally gets the opportunity to deliver a performance that goes far beyond the empathetic and suffering mother. Quite the contrary, her character is practically the opposite of the mother played by Vera Farmiga in the 2009 film, and manages to live up to Orphan when it comes to dark secrets and questionable behavior.

    Brent Bell seems to have acquired, in his eighth feature, enough experience for his work to be taken at least seriously by film critics and horror lovers. In "Orphan: First Kill", we can find several holes and narrative insufficiencies when it comes to causing fear and making us create empathy for its characters. On the other hand, it is not difficult to extract several qualities from this work that definitely does not take itself seriously, but which promises some good surprises for viewers who hope to see (or refuse to see) more of the same. Since the suspension of disbelief is one of the crucial factors in embarking on the experience proposed by the film, there is no room for logic or attentive eyes here. The frivolous entertainment is valued through isolated scenes, and mainly through the tension created by the reversal of the public's expectations after an unexpected twist. We follow a prologue that is possibly too long, but it is necessary in order to introduce the main character and her future goals. As soon as the character settles into the new family thanks to her specific type of dwarfism and the fact that she closely resembles her missing daughter, her internal and external conflicts do not take long to emerge. What really impresses and grabs us into the story for good is the first turning point, imposed through what we can easily call one of the best plot twists of 2022, which catches us completely off guard and provokes strong and unusual feelings in us. Even leading to rooting for Esther's goals, if that's possible.

    The unpredictable humanization of the main character, even after an entire feature dedicated to villainizing and making us hate her ("Orphan, 2009"), is clearly another beautiful move in the script by David Coggeshall, responsible for the text of several episodes of the MTV series, "Scream (2015-2019)", based on the "Scream" franchise. The exercise of caring about the life of horror cinema's most famous child serial killer for much of the film is intriguing, but it could be more rewarding. Even though the second act carries, with numerous imperfections, the greatest qualities of "Orphan: First Kill", the result presented during the final part is simply disappointing, as well as predictable. Finally, not even the small excerpts from the beautiful "The Glory of Love" (composed by Billy Hill), played at specific moments in the film, are able to save the film from its flaws.

    Having said all that, it's a shame that "Orphan: First Kill" falls into the all-too-frequent horror tradition of throwing everything up in sequels. That's because the first film not only takes itself too seriously, it works in a heavy-handed way. There was a theme of mourning, trauma, a broken family, evil incarnate and, even, the death of half of our protagonists. The sequel, in turn, is based on a premise with a tragic and known outcome - we already know precisely how this journey will end -, and the solution found here was to put a foot in comedy. While it works very well, there is a feeling of what the "Orphan" sequel could have been if it had been as disturbing and tense as its predecessor. There was a lack of more blood and psychological games, but it is still a film that took too many risks, especially in repeating the casting of Fuhrman as an adult, but which managed to prove interesting.
  • mentiramivida6 - 3 August 2023
    Well that happened
    What were the director(s) and writers thinking with that end? Did they not know of a better out? Main issue is, how is it that the house is on fire but no one is coughing or suffering even slight smoke inhalation. At least make the grifter move faster. She has a go bag, they didn't have to make her move so slowly. That's my only spoiler y'all and I'm sorry but don't fret the movie before the movie end is a solid 8-10. The ending ruined the possibility of a great prequel.

    Until the end this made me want to watch the orphan again because it's been so long. But after that I'd rather not suffer through more trash.
  • catalinmarian-13885 - 9 June 2023
    What was the point?
    The first part "Orphan" was very good at the time, interesting and intelligent and even surprised me with the ending. It was clear that a prequel can't be as interesting and surprising because the magic of the first film was already known and that's why I found this film to be rather pointless, I really don't know why it exists but nothing surprises me anymore. We learned a bit of Esther's story, new characters but nothing memorable. I like that they tried something new in the middle of the movie, even if it was a bit far-fetched, it was something but not something that could save the movie or make it better.
  • Reviews_of_the_Dead - 21 December 2022
    Knows What It Is Doing Here
    This is a movie that I was shocked to hear they were making. When I learned that it was going to be a prequel, that made more sense. It's been a while since I've seen the original so that is part of it. It also is quite a long time between the first one coming out and this being made. Regardless, I figured I would check this out ahead of making my year end list.

    Synopsis: after orchestrating a brilliant escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family.

    Where I want to start is that this movie sets up what we know from the original. Esther is Leena. She is being held in an institute as the synopsis said. She is the most dangerous patient there according to the doctor in charge. The opening sequence is a new art teacher coming to the institute to work with her and others. This woman is Anna (Gwendolyn Collins). What I found interesting is that the doctor who lets her in, Dr. Novotny (David Lawrence Brown), sets up that she is a con artist. That plays into her escaping.

    Once out, Leena gets on the internet looking for a missing child that is similar in how she looks. This leads her to Esther Albright. Leena sets it up to be found by a police officer, saying that she was kidnapped from the United States and brought to Russia. This gives hope to Allen (Rossif Sutherland) and Tricia (Julia Stiles). They are the parents to Esther. There is also a son, Gunnar (Matthew Finlan), who is good at fencing. He is also a bit of a snob. The detective that oversaw the investigation for Esther was Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa). He's the one that relays the information to the family.

    Tricia goes to confirm that it is Esther. She notices the differences, but her and Allen believe it to be her. There is more to what is going on here though and it is complicated on both sides. Esther makes mistakes, for obvious reasons. Things take a dark turn though as this façade goes on and doesn't end well as you can imagine.

    That is where I'm going to leave my recap as that gets to the first major reveal of the movie. It wasn't something I was necessarily expecting, but I like the route that they went with it. What I want to include here is that this knows what it is doing and I appreciate that. There is a commentary here that I can appreciate as it is something that is well documented. Since I can't delve too much into it, what I will say is that money and wealth bring privilege. We see that almost at once with Gunnar. He is quite snooty. Tricia, it turns out is not too far from him. The only who is down to Earth enough that I liked was Allen. He just misses his daughter and I think that blinds him a bit.

    Now with that set up, this is a hard movie to make in my opinion. The original is all predicated on the reveal. I'm guessing that most everyone coming in has seen that first one and knows the truth about Esther. This one must lean into that from the beginning as a prequel. There are stakes that are taken away due to that. We know that she survives. That is part of my issues with prequels. I can appreciate that this knows that and goes a bit over the top to have fun with it. There is a back and forth between Esther and Tricia as well as between the former and Gunnar. I came to expect the butting of the heads for the latter duo. Not all this works though. This does go a bit too cheesy at times, but not enough to ruin it.

    What I think makes this work though is that Fuhrman embodies this character. I believe the role of Esther was the first that I saw her in. I'm glad that in the framework of this movie, it allows her to do a bit more. We see little things that are in the original. That is fun to see the origins of not only the character, but of her quirks. This is about her and developing the character more. It is done well there. Stiles is solid enough. The issues with her character that I have come more from the writing. I did like the character shift that we get with her though. It is different from the mother in the original while still being similar. Sutherland is good as the father here. I love that he's the rock and the one that so badly wants to believe that Leena is Esther. That brings a bit of heart. I like Kanagawa as this nosey detective. Finlan plays this rich, arrogant, older brother well. The rest of the cast also rounds this out for what was needed.

    The last things then to go into would be with the filmmaking. First, I want to set up that this is a fun popcorn, mainstream horror movie. I think that the cinematography is good. There aren't a lot in the way of effects. What is more effective is the editing. Esther is a con artist so I like that she manipulates things to where people are disarmed by her. She is a bit sloppy early into this, but we see what she becomes. There are things she does and how they're presented to us that I can see how it tricks people. Other than that, I'd say the soundtrack worked for what was needed without standing out.

    In conclusion, this is a fun movie as I've said. It isn't doing anything new and doesn't pack the punch that the first one did. It is hard to follow that up though. What I'll give credit to here is that this one knows what it is doing. It isn't trying to do anything new. It wants to develop more of the character and the backstory what we got in that original. I can appreciate that. I think that Fuhrman does great in being Esther. The rest of the cast is fine in support and to push her to where she ends up. I think this is made well enough and had no issues there. If you like the first one, go ahead and give this a viewing. Not as good, but still a solid movie overall.

    My Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • winkearl - 28 November 2022
    Huge twist saves a potentially boring movie
    The first Orphan is really good, don't get me wrong. But the first half of this movie seemed to be setting up to basically be a repeat of the first movie, with Esther infiltrating a new family and presumably plotting to kill them. While that worked in the first movie, a whole additional movie with basically the same plot may have been pretty boring. But, this is all flipped on its head by a huge twist about half way through. Without going into spoilers, the whole dynamic of the movie is changed altogether. I found myself to be much more interested in the second half. After watching, I felt like I had actually seen a new movie, rather than just a repeat of the first one.
  • mahinur-93539 - 1 November 2022
    Had low expectations, wasn't disappointed.
    After the first movie " The Orphan " I was quite eager to know about the beginning of Esther, how she came up to be who she is- you know the stuffs you have in a origin film. But this doesn't seem to be like that at all.

    First of all, the movie doesnt even begin from the beginning in Esther's perspective. She was shown to be in a mental hospital and doctors mention her to be the most dangerous patient ever (we dont know why and how she was called that). Why should we not know why she was a dangerous patient? It was the "first kill" after all.

    I often had the feeling of her not being a mental patient but just a killer who likes to kill, at least at the first. I am also ignoring all the small inconsistencies that were spread throughout the film.
  • crichie-20032 - 22 October 2022
    Decent but first is still better
    This movie was good but i would still perfer the first one than this one. I do have to say Isabelle hasn't changed much over the past 13 years but there were things that i found stupid first is the dad thinking that the kid will return when she was missing 5 years ago because realistically the child would have been dead. The second is the fact the mom and son found out Esther's identity in the middle of the movie instead of the end of the movie so it ruins the facade that Esther had unlike the first flim. The third is the son saying "this is America people like me matter" sounds bigoted and some might get offended by it. First movie still is best movie. If you like the first one watch that, this isn't as enjoyable. Isabelle hasn't changed much and loved her but she was the only likable character.