Orphan: First Kill (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Orphan: First Kill (2022) Review

Horrorific content by angie on August 24th, 2022 | Movie Review | Slow Burn, Psychological, Thriller, Mystery, Dysfunctional Family, Maniac, Killer Kid, Dangerous Exploration

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It's about a grown woman with hypopituitarism who assumes the identity of the long-lost daughter of a rich American family, with murderous consequences.

Orphan: First Kill was directed by William Brent Bell (Separation, Brahms: The Boy II, and The Boy) and stars Isabelle Fuhrman (The Last Thing Mary Saw, Escape Room 2, and Down a Dark Hall), Julia Stiles (Out of the Dark, and The Omen), Rossif Sutherland (The Retreat, Possessor, and Trench 11), Hiro KanagawaMatthew FinlanStephanie SyLauren CochraneJade MichaelGwendolyn Collins, and Kristen Sawatzky (The Return).

Orphan: First Kill (2022) Review

Orphan's big twist at the end of 2009 was that the 9-year-old girl adopted by the family, Esther, was a violent 33-year-old woman with a condition that halted her growth. A decade later, Esther is back and ready to kill again. Instead of focusing on the adult Esther, Orphan: First Kill goes back in time to follow the younger years of the killer's first adoptive family. With the now adult Fuhrman reprising her role, it's clear that this prequel wants to go all-in with the '90s thriller vibes and campy tone that the first movie established.

Orphan: First Kill reintroduces us to the character of Esther, shown to be deceptive and dangerous in an extended opening sequence set in a psychiatric facility in Estonia. Esther transforms into the daughter of a well-off American family who has been missing for a long time. However, taking on this new persona is more complicated than initially thought, mainly when she deals with Tricia Albright, the child's overbearing mother.

At first, the screenplay by David Coggeshall from a story by producers Alex Mace and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick seems the opposite of the 2009 film. After an exciting beginning, Esther relaxes into being a loving daughter reconnecting with her family after time apart. However, familiar patterns emerge; Esther becomes attached to her adoptive father, Allen, while she is distant from her older brother Gunnar. She carefully protects herself, especially around Detective Donnan, who has been trying to find the Albrights' missing daughter for a long time. Just as Esther settles into a routine, the script flips the story with an unexpected obstacle that changes everything for the protagonist.

Director William Brent Bell is tasked with creating a youthful illusion of Fuhrman in the film "Esther" after a ten-year gap between films. Bell employs various techniques to achieve this goal. Conveying Esther's petite size through forced perspectives and adjusting the heights of set dressings or scene partners is more successful than using wide shots of Esther with noticeable child stand-ins. However, the indistinct quality of the film makes it appear as though First Kill is trying to obscure any indications of Fuhrman's maturity. The decisions seem even stranger, considering First Kill is aware of itself. Orphan features a preteen actor playing an adult character pretending to be a child. First Kill features an adult actor playing an adult character pretending to be a child.

First Kill is most successful when it acknowledges its silliness. Esther driving a stolen car and having fun is entertaining and makes you wish this prequel had more moments like it. Julia Stiles provides an unexpected level of intensity and serves as an exciting contrast to Esther's plans. Stiles understands what the movie is trying to accomplish and delivers the necessary energy to make it happen. Unfortunately, she is so determined to get the film that she threatens to steal it from Fuhrman. This creates a problem that occasionally weakens and sidelines our favorite little killer.

The prequel attempts to answer questions the audience didn't know they needed answers to, like how Esther learned to paint with black light. However, it often falls flat and struggles to maintain energy levels. This is likely due in part to Rossif Sutherland's lackluster performance. He seems miscast and uninterested in the role of the nice guy who is oblivious to the craziness around him.

Worth Watching? 

The prequel wants to turn things upside down and dial up the madness, going all-in on a '90s thriller vibe. It's at its best when Stiles and Fuhrman play off each other, but it sometimes struggles to maintain momentum. First Kill is chock-full of suspenseful moments and outlandish humor, though it is somewhat inconsistent. This is made worse by the occasionally ineffective de-aging of Fuhrman. Those who enjoy hammy thrillers will probably find Esther's story very funny, enjoying the wild changes in tone throughout the story. However, those who dislike this story will find it slow and dull.

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