Esther in Orphan: First Kill

Review: ‘Orphan: First Kill’ Is a Campy, Bloody Delight

She’s back, she’s back in the saddle again.

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Twisted and calculated horror villain, Esther/Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman) has made a return to the horror world. Orphan (2009) may not have been a perfect horror movie, but it was something nobody was expecting. Especially not during the boom of horror remakes during the aughts. It gave us a spin on the dangerous kid trope in horror. That shock you feel initially, when it’s revealed that Esther is a grown woman, is so startling. But since we already know that particular twist going into Orphan: First Kill, I wondered, could the prequel be as fun or disturbing?

To my delight, the answer turned out to be a resounding yes. So, for your own sake, throw any reservations you may have about prequels down the stairs. Orphan: First Kill (2022) has twists and turns that make it feel like a slasher—and it is quite an enjoyable (and still surprising) ride.

The prequel follows the events that led to Esther being adopted in the first film. After a clever and violent escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Leena/Esther travels to America and impersonates the missing daughter (named Esther) of a rich family. The parents, Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Rossif Sutherland), and their son, Gunnar (Matthew Finlan), embrace her with open arms. But obviously, Esther is not who she seems. At first, Esther appears to have the family fooled. She practices how to behave like Esther, tries to play the perfect little girl, and maintains her fake kidnapping story. Then, things get complicated.

That may seem similar to the first film’s plot, but without spoiling too much about the twist, I’ll say that Orphan: First Kill does a great job finding fresh horror and new ground to tread in Esther’s story. I wasn’t sure, at all, how the events would play out in the end, which is always a mark of a good horror romp.

tricia in Orphan: First Kill
(Paramount Players)

Julia Stiles and Isabelle Fuhr give fantastic performances—as a mother who is willing to do anything for her family and an adult woman trying to fool her into thinking she’s a part of that family, respectively. They have great chemistry together, play off each other well, and deliver performances that are just the right amount of campy. And happily, Fuhrman is as delightfully horrifying as she was in the first film. Overall, I’d say this movie is better than its predecessor. The social and class commentary is clearer, with Allen, who heavily dislikes the ultra-rich, in stark contrast to his wife and son, who place extreme importance on wealth and status. Esther, as an immigrant without money, is in sharper focus in this particular family.

Visually, the film is intense and violent. Esther is unforgiving in her murders, and those squeamish with blood may not be able to stomach this one. If you can handle gore, though, this film is worth the watch. You may already know the ending of Esther’s story, it is a prequel after all, but the movie really has you guessing as to how it will lead into the first film and keeps you on the edge of your seat, regardless.

So, get ready for Esther because she’s back. And she’s better than ever.

Orphan: First Kill (2022) will be released on Paramount+, select theaters, and VOD on August 19th.

(featured image: Paramount Players)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.