No One Expected Orphan: First Kill (2022) to Be Good but Here We Are!
Title: Orphan: First Kill
First Non-Festival Release: July 27, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: William Brent Bell
Writer: David Coggeshall, David Leslie Johnson-McGolrick, Alex Mace
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Before terrorizing the Colemans, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) lived another life. After murdering her previous family, she is imprisoned in an Estonian psychiatric facility. She makes her way to America by posing as the missing daughter of a WASPy American family. Once there, Esther continues to hone her master manipulation tactics to ingratiate herself into the family unit. Along the way she makes some very big mistakes, and the audience learns more about Esther’s motivations, tactics, and baggage that carries with her.
Orphan: First Kill defies the odds and delivers a solid yet hilariously entertaining prequel that should have been impossible to make.
What starts as a tired retread of the original, morphs into something special when a few reveals add more layers to the twisted situation in the Albright house. The writers takes their time to lure the viewers in a false sense of security before ripping it right underneath them, very much in tune with the spirit of the original. Partially, this is why it is so easy to accept 25-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther when the viewer’s brains are likely screaming at them that something is wrong.
Fuhrman must be commended for taking on the ambitious task of reprising her role as Esther. Not many actors can say they have tackled something so daring, yet Fuhrman does this with confidence and grace. Esther is as scary as ever, perhaps even moreso as we learn more about the psychology behind her motivations and watch her tactics evolved. The remaining cast lean into the joke as well. Julia Stiles, however, carries with her portrayal of Tricia. Stiles’ blasé and iron fisted socialite schtick provides for some interesting dynamics between her and Esther. Her line delivery and physicality is unmatched, as she absolutely nails the role.
What makes this film special is its acute awareness of exactly what it is and that the vision is clearly communicated with the audience. Much of this has to do with the writing. Orphan: First Kill has so many excellent one-liners aided by a cast that fully understands comedic timing. Ever since the original film’s shocking twist, the creative team needed to make it memorable. They did so by having fun with the ideas the first film laid the groundwork for while still building on the mythos of the franchise. By not taking the material too seriously, the film warms the audience up to its wacky concept.
As fun as the film is, it isn’t without issues. The biggest issue with Orphan: First Kill is its odd pacing which stifles the momentum of the story. Breezing past some interesting ideas to get to its forgone conclusion, the film has a habit of accelerating and pausing the action in erratic ways. There is something off-putting about the general look of the film. It has this hazy, almost grimy effect added to it, almost like the opposite problem Hollywood has with its films, which tend to be slick, glossy, and hyper stylized. This is likely done to conceal Fuhrman’s age, but it does end up detracting from the film in the long run.
This film has no right to be as fun as it is but Orphan: First Kill shatters expectations in the best of ways. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the original, First Kill builds on the lore in interesting and surprising ways that subvert expectations. Continuity issues aside, the true marvel of the film is Fuhrman and her performance as Esther. Is the illusion always there? No. It does work more often than it should, given the smart directorial moves, clever set and costume design, and, of course, Fuhrman’s performance herself. Not many actors can say they aged themselves backwards for a role to this degree, and that in of itself makes First Kill worthy of a watch. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but Orphan: First Kill will satisfy those looking for pure camp and brainless popcorn horror.
Overall Score? 6.5/10