Orphan: First Kill is an intriguing thriller that's a little slow to get going, but has good performances and a twist of it's own that'll keep you invested.
Written by Becca Johnson / August 16, 2022
Orphan: First Kill is a movie that has left most horror fans excited yet sceptical. On one hand, visiting the character of Esther is bound to provide fun and thrills, and audiences know they could rely on Isabelle Fuhrman's performance and plenty of gory kills. On the other hand, creating a prequel for a character which we already know the true identity of seemed like a strange path to take. Many were asking whether the backstory would be as interesting as the twist provided in the original, and ultimately, whether a prequel would be worthwhile.
Isabelle Fuhrman delivers an exceptional performance, despite the age difference from when she last played Esther. She's bitter sweet and believable, being particularly menacing when she needs to be. There's something chilling about Esther, a trait that Fuhrman seems to understand and display with ease. They deal with the age gap particularly well too; you'll never once doubt that Esther is a young girl despite being played by 23-year-old woman. Taking the Mum role this time around is Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You), who gives a solid performance and even one that audiences aren't expecting. It's hard to analyse the performances from other side characters as they get minimal screen time with not a great deal to do, yet everyone delivers. The dialogue may be a little cringe-worthy and poorly written at times, but the actors work well individually and together to make it work.
During Orphan: First Kill, we follow Lena as she escapes a psychiatric facility in Estonia and travels to America to pose as Esther, a missing child from a grieving family. Although this gives us the opportunity to see Lena become Esther for the very first time, it's easy to question whether the writers took the right direction. Setting the movie slightly earlier on during Lena's timeline might have been more interesting, as we could've seen her develop her killer tendencies and discover what makes her the violent individual that she has become. Orphan: First Kill does this to a certain extent, giving us dribs and drabs of Lena's life, but it leaves a lot to be desired and has wasted potential.
That being said, the story is somewhat successful. It definitely takes it's time and meanders a little during the first couple of acts, no real horror starting until the final portion. However, the script delivers a whacky and shocking twist that may not be quite as intriguing as Orphan (2009), but it sure does come close. Considering most viewers are just expecting to see Esther kill a bunch of people with little in the way of twists and turns, Orphan: First Kill exceeds expectations. The script is much more witty and self aware than its predecessor, allowing for a little campiness and humorous fun. It may be slow, but when the climax comes it's almost worth it, with plenty of action, fight sequences, fire and gore.
Orphan: First Kill struggles to find it's footing at first, as a slow plot and poor dialogue make it seem a little drab. However, when the twist kicks in and our actors are allowed to truly take their characters on, it's incredibly entertaining. It's gory, it's twisted, it subverts expectations and most importantly, it has fun. Isabelle Fuhrman is phenomenal as Esther/Lena, and seeing her play this character again was just as exciting as the first time. Whether the writers took the correct path or not, what we have is a solid little thriller that doesn't quite live up to its predecessor but tries it's best. The Orphan story may be best kept to just these two movies, but they compliment each other well.