‘Orphan: First Kill’ review: long-awaited prequel provides plenty of scares

It's been 13 years since Esther's cinematic debut, and she's only grown creepier

Orphan, released in 2009, was a good horror movie with a great twist and a better villain. The plot went like this: quiet, sensitive Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) is adopted by Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) following the loss of their own unborn daughter. The creepy little menace then proceeds to cause paranoia, doubt and death before unveiling her true identity. Thanks to a growth-arresting medical condition, she is a 33-year-old con-artist who has passed herself off as a kid, and developed a taste for other people’s husbands.

Fast-forward to 2022, and new prequel Orphan: First Kill is finally adding to the story. Set two years prior, it explores Fuhrman’s immediate backstory. After escaping from an Estonian psychiatric facility, she travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. There’s the suspicious mother (Julia Stiles), the nostalgic father (Rossif Sutherland) and douchebag older brother Gunnar (Matthew Finlan).

Orphan
Julia Stiles in ‘Orphan: First Kill’. CREDIT: Alamy

With Esther’s true identity no longer a mystery to audiences, director William Brent Bill can give her free-reign to be as intense and intimidating as possible. She slips from angelic to unhinged with the most subtle of facial expressions and despite the sometimes obvious use of forced perspective, it never feels like you’re watching a 25-year-old playing a 31-year-old playing a ten-year-old.

Halfway through the film, Inspector Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa) discovers that Esther isn’t who she says she is. Then the twist comes, which sets up a brilliant second act that’s darker and more surprising than the original. “This is insane, even for us,” says Gunnar.

The original Orphan was a neat film that wrapped everything up neatly, but with First Kill, writer David Coggeshall, alongside story creators David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Alex Mace, explores Esther’s implied backstory without wasting time trying to justify her actions. Instead, this prequel is a satisfying, surprising watch that lives up to the original’s legacy and maintains Esther’s status as a cinematic icon.

Details

  • Director: William Brent Bell
  • Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland
  • Release date: August 19 (in UK cinemas)
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