Orphan: First Kill on Paramount+ is a prequel to the 2009 film Orphan. It traces its steps back to Estonia in 2007 and sheds light on how the deranged psychopath Leena AKA Esther made her way to America.
Orphan: First Kill opens in 2007 in Estonia’s Saarne Institute. We see Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman) — who hasn’t adopted the Esther alias yet — orchestrating her escape from the facility.
We are given the exposition that she is a a 31-year-old woman with a rare gland disorder called hypopituitarism that stunted her physical growth past the age of 10.
Leena infiltrates the house of the institute’s art therapist and kills her. She then goes online to search for missing kids and realises that she bears resemblance to an American girl named Esther Albright (Kennedy Irwin), who was abducted in 2003.
Her plan in sight, Leena (now the fake Esther) makes herself known to the police who take her to Russia and call the Albright family. The mother, Tricia (Julia Stiles), shows up to escort Esther back to home and the game begins.
Esther starts falling for the patriarch Allen (Rossif Sutherland) who bonds with her over painting and art. Meanwhile, there is something off about Tricia and her elder son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan).
Esther gradually steals from them and is settling into her new life when a mind numbing revelation flips the cards on her.
Isabelle Fuhrman snaps back into Esther’s skin seamlessly which is commendable since she was 12 when she first played the character.
Her performance is bone chilling, familiar but also feels refreshing. We see a vulnerable and frustrated side to Esther owing to the plot and Fuhrman lives up to the challenge.
Matthew Finlan and Julia Stiles are at par with Fuhrman. The mother-son duo is as vicious as they come and are perfect representations of high society mania.
Their transition from victims to the abusers is an unexpected one and they have a lot of fun with the evil representation of their characters.
Rossif Sutherland as Allen is probably the weakest performance of the lot. It may be due to his character’s ignorant and melancholy nature. Allen seems to be there to provide a safe haven for Esther which she can’t make use of.
Eventually, the end he meets doesn’t do justice to an otherwise enthralling film.
The best thing about Orphan: First Kill is that it doesn’t try too hard to deviate from the original but when it does, it does so in the best of ways.
The prequel concept is a welcome one and the plot twist that presents itself halfway through the narrative is extremely unexpected (which is a feat in today’s time).
On top of great acting, the film is well paced, consistently thrilling and just the right amount of gory. We see Esther develop her signature habits (like painting disturbing stuff in black light and manipulating people) that were relevant in the first one.
What is more commendable are the almost invisible visual effects. No de-ageing is used to make Fuhrman look younger and the camera tricks used to make her physically look like a tiny 10-year-old are near perfect.
The slight problems with Orphan: First Kill are related to its final act which is underwhelming to say the least.
The cat & mouse game between our sociopathic protagonist and her make believe mother and brother is brilliant. However it is let down by how rushed and forced the conclusion is.
The writing will have to take the brunt for this one as the the film becomes weirdly stale after the train station scene. The deaths are lame and Esther walking out in slow motion from a blisteringly hot burning house feels unnecessary.
It almost feels like director William Brent Bell ran out of ideas towards the end. This is where this prequel falls short compared to the original which was disturbing till its last second.
Orphan: First Kill is a worthy prequel and does most of the things right. Esther’s backstory is well presented and the totally unexpected plot twist sells the film. Despite its disappointing final act, it is a must watch for anyone craving a chill up their spine.
Orphan: First Kill
Director: William Brent Bell
Date Created: 2022-08-22 14:16