Prequels are an interesting thing. When done right, they can be really good origin stories that give us insight into a character. If done wrong, it can be something we look at and say it never needed to happen. With Orphan: First Kill, we can say that we both did and didn’t have to have it. But we are glad they made it. Prequels for horror/psychological thrillers are not an entirely common thing. So, when we get them, we’re intrigued.
Orphan: First Kill is the origin story of Leena, who we met in the first Orphan film. If you need a little backstory, Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman) is a 33-year-old woman, who suffers from a rare pituitary disorder that caused her to stop growing at the age of 10. Because of this, she has always looked like a child. This has made it easy for her to pass herself off as such to manipulate those around her.
In 2009’s Orphan, Leena managed to pass herself off as a nine-year-old girl named Esther and was adopted by a couple played by Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard. As the audience watches, we don’t know until the very end that she is, in fact, a grown woman. The entire time, I was asking why she was the way she was. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Esther. I knew she wasn’t normal. But the twist caught me off guard.
I still remember the very first time that I watched the film. I was in complete and utter shock at the big reveal, and I thought it was quite possibly one of the best twists in a horror film I’d ever seen. When I heard about this prequel, I was once again excited, but I had some doubts as well regarding how the director would pull it off. My reason for that was because going into this film, I just assumed it would follow the same formula as the first one. Boy, was I wrong and pleasantly surprised.
Before I continue with my review of Orphan: First Kill, just know spoilers are ahead.
Like I said, before going into Orphan: First Kill, I just knew that I had it figured out. Because the film is a prequel and we knew she killed the family she was staying with, I thought it would be the same premise as Orphan.
Orphan: First Kill starts off with us in the Saarne Institute, the mental hospital Leena is staying in. The year is 2007, and we see how she was able to escape the facility and make her elaborate plan to pass herself off as the missing child of Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Rossif Sutherland) Albright.
One of the things that I do have to say about this film is that I’m not sure why they decided to call it Orphan: First Kill, when it’s obvious that Leena has killed before this. That is why she was living in the Saarne Institute in the first place. The Albright family is not the first family she has infiltrated. Not only that, but she also kills a guard and the new art teacher at the very beginning of the film. But I digress.
Esther, who is the Albrights’ daughter, went missing in the year 2003. Leena stumbled on her picture while looking up missing children in America. And she found Esther to be the perfect match. At this point, you’re probably wondering how she could pass herself off as their child when she’s from Estonia. Well, Leena thought of everything. Leena concocts a story that Esther was kidnapped from Connecticut and taken to Russia. That explains the accent.
Because the Albrights have not seen their daughter for so long, Leena is able to pass herself off as what would now be 10-year-old Esther. Now, I’m going to pause here for a moment and jump back to Orphan. If you are familiar with Orphan, Leena led Kate (Farmiga) and John (Sarsgaard) to believe she was a nine-year-old girl. In Orphan: First Kill, she pretends to be 10, which is a year older.
My only assumption as to why they aged her up for this one is because at the time of the first film, Fuhrman, who was 10 years old, looked a lot younger as opposed to her being close to 25 at the time of doing this prequel. It wouldn’t have been believable for her to play a nine-year-old here because she does look a lot older. That doesn’t mean Fuhrman didn’t do a good job of once again playing the child role. She nails it in the right moments and transforms into the adult at the right times, as well.
When Leena moves in with the Albrights, it seems like things are going okay, but something feels a bit off. Tricia doesn’t seem to be warming up to her daughter like you would expect. The same could be said for her son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan). He looks at Leena with an air of suspicion, yet the audience doesn’t know why. There’s also a detective by the name of Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa), who has been following Esther’s case quite intensely. It’s clear from the moment Leena sets foot into the Albright house that this is not going to be the easy con she thought it would be.
What happened about 55 minutes into Orphan: First Kill was not something I was expecting at all.I’ll be honest: I was watching the movie intensely, but I was just feeling like it was the same story. But that was until Tricia showed up while Leena was killing Detective Donnan at the moment he figured out she wasn’t Esther. After Tricia finishes Donnan off, she has a little sit-down with Leena, where she reveals she’s known since day one that Leena is not really Esther. My jaw dropped. And it was a fantastic twist, to say the least.
Esther is totally caught by surprise and attempts to get Tricia to let her leave. But Tricia has a secret of her own and is less than willing to let Leena go. As it turns out, Tricia knew that Leena wasn’t Esther because Gunnar accidentally killed the real Esther. Yup. Esther’s own brother killed her. And then, Tricia covered it up by making her husband believe that she was kidnapped. Esther magically returning is the best thing that could have happened to Tricia because it puts her and Gunnar in the clear. People will stop asking questions. And Allen is much happier now that his missing baby girl is back.
What begins here is a game of wits between the two women, and it’s fun to watch. Tricia and Leena are both cunning. And neither one of them can be trusted.
My only issue with this film was some of the language that Tricia and Gunnar used. I get that the film is takes place in 2007, and things were a bit different then as far as what was socially acceptable. But at times, I felt like they could have left out some of the dialogue. Tricia and Gunnar called Leena a freak and even made comments about her being an illegal immigrant. If anything, it made the audience realize what trash people they were, so by the end, I was even rooting for Leena.
Orphan: First Kill is an excellent prequel, and it was quite a twisted installment in this creepy franchise. There is also a right amount of bloody gore in there that brings the horror. If you’re into all these things, then I highly recommend it.