‘Orphan: First Kill’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Orphan: First Kill is a psychological horror film directed by William Brent Bell (The Boy), from a screenplay by David Coggeshall (The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia). Featuring Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Matthew Finlan, Hironobu Kanagawa, Jade Michael, and Samantha Walkes, the film serves as a prequel to Orphan. The story follows Leena/Esther as she escapes from an Estonian psychiatric facility, and travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family.

During the middle of a snow storm, Anna Troyev (Gwendolyn Collins) arrives at the Saarne Institute to start her new job as an art instructor. She meets with Dr. Novotny (David Lawrence Brown) and he takes her on a tour through the facility and goes over security protocols. On her tour, Anna explains to Dr. Novotny that she always wanted to use art to help people. Before they can finish their conversation they are alerted that a patient named Leena Klammer (Isabelle Fuhrman) is not in her cell. Dr. Novotny explains to Anna that Leena is their most dangerous patient and initiates a lockdown while placing Anna in the art room for safety.

Leena is also in the art room drawing a picture and Anna mistakes her for a little girl. Dr. Novotny arrives with orderlies and has Leena restrained and taken back to her cell. Dr. Novotny tells Anna about Leena’s condition and why she still looks like a child. He goes over her history of conning families into believing she is a child in need and a more recent case that ended in murder. Later, Leena seduces and kills an enamored guard in order to steal his badge and escape. Outside of the institute, Anna notices Leena has escaped and heads back inside to tell Dr. Novotny. He alerts the authorities and tells Anna that she will be caught. Unbeknownst to them, Leena hid in the trunk of Anna’s car before she left. As Anna is about to enter her home Leena attacks her with a crowbar.

Orphan came out during the renaissance of horror films in the early 2010s. It reminded me of a darker version of The Good Son with a twist that I didn’t see coming. One that would make anyone second guess adopting an older kid from another country. Based on the true story of Barbora Skrlova, Esther turned out to be a grown woman with hypopituitarism making her look as if she were still a child. While it wasn’t beloved by critics it held a soft spot in my heart as one of the most unique horror films I had seen in a long time. Many critics who didn’t care for the film still praised Isabelle Fuhrman’s performance as the psychotic Esther. Seeing as Esther did not survive that film I assumed that her story was over and that we would never see another film with this character. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

The “Streaming Wars” have studios looking into all of their intellectual property to see what original content that can make for their respective streaming services to gain more subscribers. Orphan: First Kill wreaks of this and probably would not have been made if Paramount+ didn’t exist. Orphan isn’t a film people were dying to see another chapter of especially over a decade later. People already know the twist with the character and doing the same film with a different family wouldn’t be interesting enough. However, here we are with another entry that does not match up to the brilliance and thrills Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) brought to the first film.

Isabelle Fuhrman is still great as Esther but the actor is now 25 and noticeably older than she was in the first film, which takes place two years after this one chronologically. Strangely, the studio didn’t try more to de-age or deepfake the actor to appear a little younger. It wouldn’t have taken much effort considering how much it is done in films lately. The best part about the film is easily Julia Stiles as Tricia Albright. The twist involving her character almost saves this movie from being a boring rehash, but unfortunately, this plot thread is fumbled leading into the rushed and sloppy ending. The supporting cast is just as forgettable and doesn’t add much more to the story other than being victims for Esther. Also, it’s hard to root for spoiled affluent characters in any film so when they die the audience doesn’t feel sad for them. Lastly, it looks as if Bell shot the film with a blurred edge effect making it appear as if everything were a dream. It’s an interesting choice, but one that doesn’t enhance the movie in any way.

Just like Firestarter earlier this year, Orphan: First Kill is an example of a studio putting out a movie hoping it would increase the subscriber base for their streaming service. The money used to make this movie would have been better suited for an original horror IP. I give Orphan: First Kill a Bad 4.5/10. It also doesn’t make sense why the studio didn’t release this picture in October. Especially if the plan was to release it simultaneously through limited theatrical release, video on demand, and Paramount+. Potentially could’ve made more money that way by cashing in on the Halloween season.

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