Review: Orphan – First Kill

* Spoiler Free *

Orphan: First Kill is a 2022 American psychological horror film, serving as a prequel to the 2009 film Orphan. The film is directed by William Brent Bell, from a screenplay by David Coggeshall, and a story by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Alex Mace.

Orphan: First Kill stars Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Matthew Finlan, Hiro Kanagawa and Samantha Walkes.

Esther’s terrifying saga continues in this thrilling prequel to the original and shocking horror hit, Orphan. After orchestrating a brilliant escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Esther travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. Yet, an unexpected twist arises that pits her against a mother who will protect her family from the murderous “child” at any cost.

Orphan is a unique and stand-out horror film which has gained status as a cult classic since it’s release in 2009 despite receiving some criticism for it’s negative depiction of adoption.

When a new film in the franchise was announced in 2020 it was quite surprising considering Leena/ Esther was undoubtably killed at the end of the film.


This new installment released 12 years after the original is set one year prior to the events in Orphan and once again sees Isabelle Furhman take on the role of the murderous ‘Orphan’.

Leena under the alias Esther is a 33 year old woman who suffers from a pituitary disorder that causes her to be a proportional dwarf. Outwardly she looks like an innocent nine year old child while internally she is a violent and deluded psychopath.

Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan First Kill (Signature Entertainment) 4Fuhrman who is now 25 and does not have this disorder had long since outgrown the role physically and as a result, the makeup team and filmmakers had to get creative when making her look nine again, which included the use of world-class makeup, body doubles. clever camera angles, and CGI.

The end result is true Hollywood magic and you can barely notice any discrepancies in age. It is a huge credit to the studio and film-makers for choosing not to recast this role and allowing Furhman to build on her performance in the first film with all of the experiences she has gained since as an actress.

The film connects several threads established in the previous film and has many easter eggs for viewers to pick up on without making it jarring for newcomers to the franchise and could totally work as a stand-alone film; it also adds extra layers to the franchise and answers genuine plot holes left from the original such as how did Leena/Esther get to the USA.

It is however a much different film to the original tonally and is more suspenseful and psychological rather than focussed on blood and gore. This is a great thing in this case though as the film creates its own mood and keeps you guessing from the first frame to the last.

Esther as we see her in the original film is a master manipulator. In this film we see her become a pawn in her own game. William Brent Bell drew inspiration from Anthony Hopkin‘s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs for Esthers character this time around.

“I thought a lot about Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs for who Esther is, how she acts, moves, and thinks. She’s always smarter than everybody and she enjoys the finer things in life. I tried to bring that in because she’s an elegant, sophisticated woman and it’s shown in how she’s a brilliant pianist, a brilliant chef and we can see all of her brilliant paintings. She’s a criminal mastermind but in a way that is grounded.”

This is clearly apparent in the way she embodies that eeriness and quiet confidence that she is playing chess whilst everyone around her is playing checkers.

The rest of the films casting is also pitch-perfect.

Julia Stiles gives an incredible performance as ‘Mother/Wife/Socialite’ Tricia Albright;  a character that is the perfect mix between a Stepford Wife and Mrs Bates (Psycho).

Rossif Sutherland & Julia Stiles in Orphan First Kill (Signature Entertainment)

Stiles is well matched by Rossif Sutherland playing her man-child husband Allen.

It was a brilliant decision to keep on the writing team from the first film for continuity whilst changing up the director to give this installment a fresh view point.

William Brent Bell who is already known for ‘The Boy‘ films takes over as director and elevates the film to a whole new level in terms of visuals and performance with some truly breathtaking shots and transitions; despite the film having a small cast and limited locations and is accompanied by an elegant score from Brett Detar that is never over or under-played.

The film as a whole bucks the trend for horror prequels to be of lesser quality than the original or to have limited or tenuous connections to the story and not stand-out on their own. It also has some deeper subtext that holds a mirror up to the audience and makes us question who is truly good or evil.

5/5 – Finally….a horror prequel that lives up to or even betters the original. 

Orphan: First Kill is set to be released by Signature Entertainment in the United Kingdom on August 19, 2022, in select theaters.

Orphan: First Kill is set to be released by Paramount Players in the United States on August 19, 2022, in select theaters, digital, and streaming via Paramount+. Pre-order from Amazon Prime US.

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