Orphan: First Kill

Orphan: First Kill, to an extent, pulls off its ambitious goal of being a prequel to a 13-year-old movie using the same leading actor.

Reprising her role of an enigmatic and malicious “child” named “Esther”, Isabelle Fuhrman is still utterly convincing despite working against time, the predecessor’s relevance, and just about everyone knowing the big twist to her character in Orphan.  The audience is required to know the twist going into Orphan: First Kill but, if movie goers haven’t seen 2009’s surprising horror-thriller, the first third of this latest movie fills us in on Fuhrman’s character and her time spent in a psychiatric facility.  It’s essentially a condensed origin story that could work on its own as a short film but, as someone who enjoyed Orphan, I enjoyed this backstory nonetheless.

In fact, I wish Orphan: First Kill spent more time in this facility (with less cloudy visuals).  While it may be a rote move for the film to take place in an unkempt institution, these first scenes set up eerie and paranoid qualities to the atmosphere.  The other personalities sharing the same roof as “Esther”, whether they’re staff or other patients, allude to dynamics that are fun and could’ve been tense for a horror fan.  Unfortunately, “Esther” finds her escape and fills a void in a broken family (reminiscent of last year’s Titane, except with less automotive intimacy).

When Orphan: First Kill changes course to mimic notes from its predecessor and attempts another wild twist, the movie becomes more conventional, and that aforementioned fun becomes awkward camp featuring “Esther” having issues with her new mother Tricia (Julia Stiles) and vice versa.  The disappointment ensues when director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside, The Boy) ignores Orphan’s gothic elements, and decides to make this prequel resemble more of a slasher.  “Esther” is an intriguing character, but not in the same vein as vicious serial killers.  She’s more calculated in a Machiavellian fashion, and it’s a bummer for a filmmaker to interpret her as nothing more than a “weirdo who likes to stab people”.


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