One of the breakout horror films that was released back in 2009 was The Orphan. It was a surprising success in the horror-thriller genre due to its big twist towards the end of the film that still remains to be one of the best and most shocking movie reveals. The film aims to continue its success with its prequel film The Orphan First Kill, and here’s our review as we were immediately intrigued by how the film would perform compared to its predecessor.
The Orphan First Kill Review: Overview
This prequel is directed by William Brent-Bell (The Devil Inside, The Boy, Brahms: The Boy II) who took the reins from Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, House of Wax). As a prequel majority of the cast members are entirely new, with the exception of Isabelle Fuhrman who reprises her role as Esther/Leena. The Orphan: First Kill also stars Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, The Prince & Me) as one of the central characters, Tricia Albright. The film will officially be released in the United States by Paramount Players on August 19, 2022, in select theaters, digital, and streaming via Paramount+.
The Orphan: First Kill as mentioned is a prequel that dives into the origins of Esther and as the title implies, her very first kill as the psychotic child. We learned from the first film that Esther whose real name is Leena, has a rare hormonal disorder that stunted her physical growth and caused proportional dwarfism called hypopituitarism.
The movie kicks off with Leena who escapes from an Estonian psychiatric ward. Leena then travels to America by changing her name to Esther as she impersonates the missing daughter of a wealthy family. With what initially starts off as a means to steal from the family, Esther begins to fall in love with the patriarch of the family and attempts to seduce him and make him fall in love with her. This proves to be a bigger problem than she thought it to be as problems arise that pit Esther against the matriarch, Tricia Albright, who is set to protect her family. No matter what the cost may be.
The Orphan First Kill Review: Spoiler Warnings
Given that The Orphan First Kill is a prequel to the original film there may be some portions to this review and synopsis that may tend to be a bit spoiler-y as those who have seen the first movie may already have an idea of how the film will actually play out (more on this later). As to not tamper with your viewing experience, we will try to keep this review of The Orphan First Kill free from spoilers as we focus the discussion on the nature of the twists in general, the prequel status of the film, and the notable performance of Isabelle Fuhrman and some of the central cast members.
The Return of Orphan Surprises
The first Orphan film as mentioned has been notable due to its big twist towards the end of the film. The creepy and twisted nature of this particular scene is truly an unforgettable one. The prequel, therefore, had big shoes to fill to be quite honest. During the first few minutes of the film, First Kill proves to be engaging and interesting. The fast-paced nature of the movie will get any viewer hooked. The story however felt all the more formulaic and predictable (Again, more on this later). The action never ceases however and it is truly engaging. Everything unfolds pretty quickly but after thirty minutes or so, the film tends to drag its feet. I wasn’t honestly looking for any big twist or turns to the story as I found it to be excusable as an Esther origin story. While we don’t really get much on how Esther really became the psychotic predator that she is, we get slight imagery and glimpses of it while not diving in too deep and too far back.
As mentioned I didn’t expect anything that would shake me to my core when it comes to a big twist in this particular story but I must say that I was relatively pleased by what the film delivers halfway into the story. Admittedly it still took a while for the big reveal of a somewhat shocking twist to occur but it was still very promising in the way it was shown. The twist caught me off guard and admittedly changed the entire mood and pacing of the entire story. At a certain point, it shockingly brought about pity and sympathy for Esther which admittedly took away from the villainy of the character. Nonetheless the film, through its big twist flipped the entire story on its head giving way for a more Esther-centric story as you would surprisingly root for her due to the circumstances shown in this prequel. It humanized Esther which I must also say was very weird to witness.
The twist to be honest also paved way for big plot holes and illogical scenarios to occur. The motives and situations that some of the main characters found themselves in were a consequence of their own doing and therefore seemed so far-fetched from ever occurring. Viewers would even find themselves questioning the very motives and actions of the characters as they are truly not well-thought of. The film, therefore, became a humorous depiction of bad choices and judgments which in reality made absolutely no sense.
The Problem With Prequels
There is a huge problem with prequels in my opinion which is something that filmmakers should be aware of. In fact, there are actually two points of concern — continuity, and predictability. A Prequel is a term usually given to films or stories that are often released after the original material but are meant to explain certain events or give character backgrounds that occurred before the main story’s events.
The problem with these films first and foremost is that they pose an openness for errors to occur that may tamper with continuity. Having a film set in the past means ensuring that the story will still stick and continue further to introduce the events that are “yet to occur” in the main film. There seem to be some inconsistencies in terms of the overall timeline of events which sometimes get away due to the rich nature of the central family in focus here. The look of Isabelle Fuhrmann’s character is also sometimes an issue especially if you trace back or rewatch the first film as the age difference is truly already visible. There are also some aspects to the story however that are done well to explain why Esther is the way she is in the first film such as her chosen name example and the awesome moment where her love for double-meaning paintings is also revealed in this prequel which is actually done pretty well.
The other issue I have with prequels however is the predictable nature that they obviously possess. We obviously know that Esther will survive in this film as she makes her way into the original story. We are also given the obvious title as a means to tell us how the story will unfold. When it comes to the story, therefore, nothing really shocking occurs except the twist itself and therefore it tends to get very boring to be quite honest. The predictable nature sinks in again after the big climactic reveal and therefore the excitement sadly begins to dwindle down once again.
The Brilliant Isabelle Fuhrmann
Isabelle Fuhrmann does not disappoint. Her portrayal of Esther in the first film is pretty consistent with this prequel from her accent down to the ability to shift gears from the seemingly innocent child that she appears to be to the psychotic thirty-old woman that she actually is. The ability to showcase a false sense of innocence while also being able to portray cleverness and wisdom beyond her literal years is amazing to witness.
One of the aspects that make this version interesting to witness however comes in the form of Julia Stiles who portrays Tricia Albright, the protective matriarch of the family. Stiles adds a great twisted element to the film that the first lacked which again is seen in the big twist in this movie. This adds a slight freshness to the movie as it truly made everything all the more exciting to witness despite having notes of predictability. The Fuhrmann and Stiles tandem was enough to keep the show alive but sadly the rest of the cast faded into the background and is even a nuisance to the actual story at play. They are there and yes they are crucial to the story but they don’t even stand a chance when it comes to the scenes that Fuhrmann is in and Stiles, especially towards the middle and end of the film.
The Orphan First Kill Review: Final Verdict
The Orphan First Kill as seen in our review has its ups and downs. Overall however it’s a film that doesn’t provide a really strong offering as a thriller and horror film. The movie is very predictable given its prequel status which causes the film to be a snooze-fest at times as there isn’t anything all that new in terms of the plot. The Orphan prequel however is by all means still an exciting offering, especially for the first half of the film, and therefore has a couple of redeeming factors nonetheless.
Hype Meter: 5/10
For more reviews: