Orphan: First Kill Review

Last Updated on August 24, 2022


PLOT: A homicidal woman attempts to pass herself off as a family’s long-lost daughter. Disaster and bloodshed ensues.

REVIEW: Thirteen years ago, the horror thriller Orphan introduced us to Esther, a 9-year-old girl who is adopted by a family… and then turns out to be thirty-something serial killer Leena Klammer, who is able to pass herself off as a child because she has a hormonal disorder called hypopituitarism. It was a terrific twist that allowed a film that looked like another take on The Bad Seed to become something else entirely. Esther/Leena was played by Isabelle Fuhrman, who was around 10 or 11 when she was on set, making it easy for her to pass as a 9-year-old herself. Now Fuhrman is an adult, but that hasn’t stopped her from reprising the role of Esther in the prequel Orphan: First Kill.

“How can Fuhrman possibly look like a 9-year-old again?” is a big question most have about Orphan: First Kill, so we’ll get that out of the way right up front. Using a mixture of in-camera tricks, stand-ins, and most likely some digital effects, director William Brent Bell and his crew were able to make Fuhrman look like a little kid. She doesn’t look exactly like she did in Orphan and some suspension of disbelief is required, and it can be jarring and amusing when Fuhrman is obviously replaced by an actual child for some shots, but it works well enough to get by. And it’s easy to accept, because having Fuhrman back in the role all these years later is better than having someone else play the character.

First Kill” sounds good for marketing, but it’s not quite accurate for the screenplay David Coggeshall wrote (working from a story by Alex Mace and the first Orphan’s writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick). Leena Klammer is already known to be a dangerous criminal by the time the film begins. We find her locked away in a psychiatric facility. It’s implied that she has already killed. There seems to be room for another prequel to be made that’s set before this one. And maybe we’ll get that if Orphan: First Kill is successful enough.

Orphan: First Kill Isabelle Fuhrman William Brent Bell

Starting the prequel in that dreary European psychiatric facility was an odd choice (and gave me negative flashbacks to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface), but thankfully – like Leatherface and Michael Myers before her – Leena is able to escape from that place rather early on. And then we find out exactly how and why she took on the name Esther. As it turns out, Esther was the name of a missing child, the daughter of Connecticut-based Allen Albright (Rossif Sutherland) and his wife Tricia (Julia Stiles). After learning about the Albright missing persons case online, Leena decides to pretend to be Esther. She comes up with a story about Esther being abducted and taken off to Russia, and now she has escaped. She contacts the authorities, the authorities contact the Albrights, and Tricia comes to bring her home.

It’s once Esther starts trying to settle into the Albright home, around the 25 minute point, that Orphan: First Kill finds its footing and really starts to get interesting. Here we have Esther infiltrating a family like in the first Orphan, she even gets a sibling in the deal – Matthew Finlan as the teenage Gunnar, who seems oddly uncaring toward his long-lost sister – but Bell and the writers were careful not to make First Kill a copy of the 2009 movie. The presence of the suspicious Inspector Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa) leads the film off into its own unique direction, and the story takes some interesting twists and turns along the way. The twist in the first Orphan made the movie something better than it initially appeared to be, and I would say the same about what happens in Orphan: First Kill. I went into both of these movies with low expectations, and they both ended up impressing me in their own ways.

A lot of years have gone by, but Fuhrman hasn’t lost her grasp on the Esther character. I never expected to see her play this role again, but I’m glad this unexpected prequel came along and gave us the opportunity. And like the first time around, Fuhrman had a solid supporting cast to bounce off of in this one, with Stiles doing some great work as Tricia Albright.

The existence of this movie is a surprise to me, and it turns out to have been a good surprise. If you liked Orphan, you’ll probably get some entertainment out of watching Orphan: First Kill.

Orphan: First Kill is set to receive a theatrical, digital, and Paramount Plus streaming release on August 19th.

Arrow in the Head reviews the Orphan prequel Orphan: First Kill, starring Julia Stiles and Isabelle Fuhrman - back as Esther after 13 years!

Viewer Ratings (0 reviews)

Add your rating

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.