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ORPHAN: FIRST KILL (2022)  l  VVS Films  |  August 19, 2022  |  99 Mins.

In this prequel to the 2009 film Orphan, Leena Klammer (Isabelle Fuhrman) is a woman suffering from hypopituitarism, and resembles a child. She decides to present herself as "Esther," the missing daughter of Katie Mauerova (Julia Stiles) and Richard Mauerova (Rossif Sutherland). Richard becomes convinced that she isn't his daughter, while Katie disagrees, believing that her husband is suffering from paranoia and hallucinating.

Leena tries to separate them, causing major problems to the family. But the couple soon discover Leena's dark past and murderous history.

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Starring

  • Isabelle Fuhrman

  • Rossif Sutherland

  • Julia Stiles

  • Matthew Finlan

Director

REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

Orphan: First Kill once again features a killer performance from Isabelle Fuhrman, that combined with yet another insane plot twist, creates a wickedly fun and deadly horror film. 

 

Horror sequels or prequels are tricky when the original film is based on a surprise twist, as the audience already knows the twist that made the original film a hit. Therefore, the writers and director need to find a compelling reason for another film to exist, otherwise, it will become a forgettable follow up to the original. And that is the challenge that Orphan: First Kill will face from audiences as they watch the second film. The original film revolved around what was wrong with the seemingly sweet and innocent Esther, and the surprise reveal created an unforgettable final act. Knowing this, the writers of the prequel disclose the twist from the original film in the first scene of the sequel, instead setting Esther off on a deadly rampage from the get go without any secrets from the audience as to what she is doing. It’s a fun way to start the film, as you are along with Esther on her murderous con, watching both in terror and with a warped sense of glee as she claims her next victim. 

 

The film does this for the first half, which while it creates an entertaining horror film and the material is handled well, but you still know the trajectory of the story as that fate of the family that Esther joins is revealed in the original. There’s no denying that the film is fun for the first half, but it fails to justify its existence other than giving Isabelle Furhman another outing as Esther. That is until the writers drop a twist at the halfway mark. Unlike the first film, you are not expecting a twist with this story and it catches you completely off guard and changes the entire tone of the film. It quickly morphs into a deadly game of cat and mouse with Esther, elevating the terror and fun, to rival that of the first film. It's a bold move by the writers, but it pays off immensely and creates one of the most wild and entertaining horror films of the year, in the most twisted way imaginable. 

 

Fuhrman, despite being twenty-five years old, reprises her role as young Esther, and once again she gives a formidable performance. Capturing that same creepiness and unhinged sense of rage and anger she did in the original film, Fuhrman will once again have you terrified. As Fuhrman’s performance in the original was so spectacular, it made it impossible for any young actress to come close to recreating this unforgettable character who is easily one of the most memorable child performances in a horror film of all time. But with her being twenty five years old, this presents a problem as you need to convince the audience that Fuhrman is not a grown woman, but a young child. To make Fuhrman pass off as a young child, the filmmaking team relies heavily on makeup, costumes and camera angles to de-age Fuhrman. Apart from the odd scene where you may believe that she is fifteen years old, Fuhrman easily passes for young Esther who is roughly half of her age, without having to rely too heavily on de-aging CGI which would have been terribly distracting throughout the film. This allows the focus of the film to be on Fuhrman and her menacing performance, which carries the film from start to finish. 

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Opposite Fuhrman is Julia Stiles, taking on the role of Tricia, the matriarch of the Albright family that Esther inserts herself into. Stiles is perfectly cast in the role as a somewhat snobby, high society woman relishing in the fact that her daughter has returned and saved her marriage. Playing it with an air of entitlement but also great concern for her presumed daughter as she begins to know something is not right with her, Stiles follows the screenplay to every last detail. However, it is once the twist is revealed and the actual plot of the film is revealed that Stiles truly shines. It’s with the new material the results from the twist where Stiles truly gets to have fun with her performance, crafting a character that is just as formidable in Esther in her own way. 

 

Matthew Finlan is entertaining as Stiles’s son, finding the perfect balance between an asshole older brother and a child who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter. Rossif Sutherland injects the film with some much needed heart as Allen Albright, where he is a true father to Esther and helps bring out a more human side in her. It’s sweet and showcases Sutherland’s warmth, reminiscent of his father’s Donald Sutherland, even if you know Esther is falling madly in love with him and wants to knock off Tricia to keep Allen all for herself. 

 

There is no denying that Orphan: First Kill is the rare horror film that manages to capture the fun and terror of the original, without being a blatant repeat, even if it is slightly subpar to the original film. Isabelle Fuhrman and Julia Stiles shine and give two terrific performances that help take the audience on one twistedly fun ride, making Orphan: First Kill a wildy entertaining horror film that will have you watching uncomfortably in your seat with a devilish smile on your face as the terror errupts on screen.

RATING: 4 out of 5 

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