Directed by William Brent Bell, Orphan: First Kill is a psychological horror film that serves as a prequel to the 2009 Orphan film and stars Isabelle Fuhrman reprising her role, as well as Julia Stiles, Rosif Sutherland, and Matthew Finlan.
Leena Klammer (Isabelle Fuhrman) escapes from a psychiatric facility in Estonia and travels to America where she impersonates Esther Albright, the missing daughter of Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Rossif Albright (Allen Sutherland). But due to an unexpected reveal, it turns out that there may be more to this family than meets the eye.
Orphan: First Kill is really a film of two different halves. The first half of the film is very generic and by the numbers. There are certain parts that make it hard to suspend your disbelief, such as the fact that no one does a DNA test to confirm if the girl really is Esther. I’ll be honest, I was ready to give up on this film in the first half as it appeared dull and predictable. However, miraculously due to the film’s surprising twist, it saved itself and it won me back. Orphan: First Kill does seem a little uneven as the writing is much better in the second half, so the consistency of the quality makes it feels like it was made by two different people.
Unlike some horrors that rely on a high kill count and jump scares to be scary, Orphan: First Kill relies a lot more on being psychological, so although there may not be as much blood or killings as other horror films, it more than makes up for it by being horrifying in other ways. I also liked the house that the Albright family live in, big and appearing in a rural area, there are no surrounding houses which is the perfect setting for a horror film like this. I also liked that the weather is cold and snowing in the film which I think adds to horrific nature of Orphan: First Kill.
I obviously can’t give too much away about the twist, but it does turn the film on its head and changes the stakes in a way that I have never seen in a horror film before which I really appreciated the originality, and this move saved this film from being a potential disaster. While I did enjoy the acting performances of all the main characters, the performances of Isabelle Fuhrman and Julia Stiles were standouts. When the twist in the film happens, these characters change quite significantly and both actresses adapted to the changes of their characters’ story arcs very well. It almost feels like they’re playing two different people, even though it is the same character.
Orphan: First Kill is an impressive prequel which is a rarity with film franchises, especially in the horror genre. Even though the first half of the film felt weak, the second half is more enjoyable. Overall, Orphan: First Kill is worth watching if you are a fan of the original Orphan film and the horror genre.