Orphan: First Kill, directed by William Brent Bell (The Boy, Brahms: The Boy II), was released in 2022 and is a prequel to the 2009 flick, Orphan. Like its predecessor, First Kill follows the exploits of the murderous Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman), a 31-year-old woman with a hormonal disorder called hypopituitarism that gives her the appearance of a 10-year-old child. Leena uses this to her advantage, scheming her way into different families who have a first date with their Maker once the gloves (or in this case, the teeth) come off and Leena reveals her true intentions. While the story is loosely based on a case in real life, the campy set-up suggests a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and audiences shouldn’t either. Note: I will be discussing spoilers from Orphan and Orphan: Kill, so consider this your official spoiler warning.
Orphan: First Kill has the benefit of leaning into all the campy elements in the first film, which had to play them off as slightly more serious and presented Leena as a straightforward villain. I think the first film is well-made, definitely thrilling, and pretty shocking with some of the material it presents, and not just with Leena’s twist. However, First Kill is where the fun begins and it centers the attention directly on Leena rather than the family she’s infiltrating.
First Kill opens with Lena staging her escape from the Saarne Institute by seducing one of the guards and killing the institute’s art therapist Anna. Because audiences are already familiar with the twist, First Kill wastes no time in presenting Leena as a homicidal, but calculated maniac. Leena researches missing American children with whom she bears a resemblance, choosing to pass herself off as Esther.
Within no time and hardly any investigation later, Esther is the in the states with her family the Albrights: mother Tricia (Julia Stiles), father Allen (Rossif Sutherland), and their son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan). Julia Stiles steals the spotlight as the matriarch of the Albright clan, and while Vera Farmiga‘s character in Orphan was beaten down and broken by tragedy, Stiles’ Tricia is the opposite: calculated, cruel, manipulative, and straight-up evil.
You see, the twist of First Kill is that Julia was responsible for killing her own daughter Esther and staging her kidnapping to protect the reputation of her equally as awful son Gunnar. Leena’s arrival as Esther presents Julia with an unexpected opportunity, to save her marriage with her unaware husband and position her family back to the top of the social ladder. Julia wastes no time in letting Leena know she’s on to her, suddenly forcing the audience to take Leena’s side as she faces off against someone who’s just as manipulative and cruel.
First Kill takes the psychological elements present in Orphan and turns them on their head for a ridiculous slasher film that allows itself to have fun with its premise. Sure the film might have some plot holes and other elements worth critiquing, but at the end of the day, it’s an entertaining outing with Esther, who I would love to see in more films. A certain suspension of disbelief is required when tuning in to films like Orphan: First Kill.
Sometimes it’s okay to have fun with a movie and relax the expectation that each new film will break the mold or be the next huge thing. To be honest, I was grinning the entire movie because it’s just what I like in a horror flick, unapologetic fun, and off-the-rails insanity.
Orphan: First Kill is currently streaming on Paramount+.
Do you think Orphan: First Kill deserves a spot on your October watch list? Tell us why or why not in the comments section.