‘Orphan: First Kill’ (2022) Review: A Wicked Origin Story With a Fascinating Twist
The 2009 film Orphan, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, earned a place with one of the most chilling twists in horror. In the original film, Isabelle Fuhrman played the titular role of the parentless child who gets adopted by a family and haunts them. After 13 years, Fuhrman reprises her role as Esther in William Brent Bell’s Orphan: First Kill to tell the story of the troubled woman’s history before leading up to their fiery demise in 2009. For viewers who are familiar with Orphan, the adoptive family is briefly mentioned in the movie, and this story dives into the original material and resurrects Esther to haunt her first family.
The film begins in 2007, when Esther (Fuhrman) is known as Leena Klammer, a 30-year-old woman imprisoned in a mental asylum in Estonia. Leena is well known as a dangerous patient, who posed as a runaway and killed a family. She concocts a plan to escape the mental asylum, and she ends up in the home of an art therapist, Anna (Gwendolyn Collins), and murders her. Leena browses the internet to find a look-a-like and pose as one of the missing kids, and she finds Esther Albright. After she places herself at the playground and gets picked up by a local police officer, she tells him that her parents are in America. When Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen Albright (Rossif Sutherland) hear the news about their missing daughter being discovered in Russia, they are overjoyed. Their son, Gunnar (Matthew Finlan), a fencing prodigy, is less excited about his sister’s arrival and he doesn’t make any effort to bond with her. Esther settles into her new home and begins to terrorise her family, but the American dream shatters when she discovers a family secret.
Orphan: First Kill centres around Esther’s story, before and after her escape from the infamous Saarne Institute. She’s skilled and manipulative in her acts, and she goes as far as to murder a paedophile guard before she escapes from the mental asylum. Esther’s history is complicated and messed up in all sorts of ways, and this movie helps to put the pieces together on why her disturbing psychological history. When she arrives at her new estate home and into the upper-class family, Esther begins to feel like everything will be alright. She attempts to connect with her new family, but what she genuinely and desperately wants is Allen’s attention. She tries to spend time with him and bond through their shared love of painting. Soon, Esther is head over heels over Allen. All of her efforts to swindle the family come crashing down when an interesting twist is played off as a switch-and-bait, and it is fascinating to watch it all fall into place.
What’s interesting about the twist in Orphan: First Kill is that it doesn’t try to turn viewers against Esther, but rather empathises with her situation. When her secret is revealed, she has no choice but to cooperate and she is once again imprisoned in another home with no way of escaping it. The twist is surprising, but it doesn’t match the overall monstrosity and horror of Orphan’s ending, where the grieving mother (Vera Farmiga) learns about her adopted daughter’s identity. The concept of turning the twist around to make Esther the “victim” is all sorts of ghoulish and chaotic.
Fuhrman does a fantastic and wicked job reprising her role as Esther. She slips back into the dress and gives everything to her performance. This prequel story adds new insight to Esther’s origin story and by the end of the final act, viewers might be rooting for Esther — although that may vary. Orphan: First Kill is entertaining, and even when it doesn’t compare to the original movie, it’s fun to watch what happens to this family. The movie re-imagines the beginning of Esther’s horror, with the familiar wrist ribbons and a sinister smile that proves to surprise and defy expectations.
Orphan: First Kill will release in theatres and stream on Paramount+ on 19 August.