Orphan: First Kill


‘…a surprisingly invigorating stand-alone shocker…’

Building a horror franchise is no easy task; even if your first film has genuine shock value, it’s hard to replicate the trick once familiarity sets in. 2009’s sleeper Orphan was a sizeable hit, making over $80 million worldwide on a budget of $20 million, but it had slick direction from Jaume Collet-Serra, notable executive producers in Leonardo DiCaprio and Joel Silver, stars in Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga, and a creepy twist that marked it down as something of a stealth sensation. This second film is a prequel rather than a sequel, but turns out to have something even more surprising up its sleeve; a good idea that marks this film out as a genuine diamond in the rough and well worth a theatrical release.

So let’s give out the information on a need-to-know basis; the main character is once again Esther (Isabelle Fuhrmann), who looks like a little girl, but is actually a mature woman who is able to pass herself off as a child. She bloodily escapes from a snowy Estonian psychiatric facility and immediately adopts the identity of the missing daughter of Tricia Albright (Julia Stiles). Tricia and her family welcome Esther to their family home. But Esther is, we already know, not what she seems, and soon bad things are happening to those who cross the mischievous, murderous little tyke…

So far, so predictable, right? Fair enough, but with a heavy dose of spoilers, there’s a terrific twist to come that ingenuously inverts the notions of the first movie. It turns out that Tricia Albright and her family have known all along that Esther is an impostor, and what follows features a jaw-dropping flip that’ll be slightly familiar to those hardy few who saw art-house shocker Titane recently. Sure, Esther is every inch the bad-ass, bad-seed that we’ve seen before, but she’s soon got her bloody little hands full as she finds herself in with a veritable parcel of rogues…

William Brent Bell did a neat enough job with the similarly loopy The Boy, and Orphan: First Kill makes a similar impression by dialling up the camp; the scene in which Esther is pulled over by the cops while listening to Michael Sembello’s smash Maniac from Flashdance on a car radio is a genuine high-point. And Stiles, one of American cinema’s most reliable if under-utilised actresses, gets a chance to turn things up to eleven as she shifts from grieving mother to a potent adversary to Esther who takes zero prisoners. Orphan: First Kill has no supernatural elements, it’s a straight up thriller that plays on our primal fears and ties into age-old traditional tropes about demonic kids who are something other than what they seem. It’s short, sharp, and effective; Orphan: First Kill is a surprisingly invigorating stand-alone shocker that lives up to its title and kills.

Signature Entertainment presents Orphan: First Kill exclusively in UK cinemas nationwide from 19th August 2022. Paramount + will distribute this in the US on the same date.



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  1. Enjoyed it. Hadn’t read your review so loved the twists. A B-movie is spot on. The middle part of a triple bill that included Fishermen’s Friends and Girls Can’t Surf. August is usually dogdays for movies but hardy filmgoers like myself are happy enough with little movies rather than blockbusters all the time. You only need one to break out and the industry is happy again.

    • I’m impressed that Dragon Ball Z took a decent sum. They’d have turned cartwheels for that a year ago. But we have a problem when B movies are in cinemas and A movies like Prey are streaming.

      • Yep, Prey sounds as if it could have been a summer breakout. I know there’s something of a blockbuster dearth till Black Adam but I’m sure something will hit the zeitgeist.

  2. You’ve made it sound ‘simply irresistible!’ Two baddies in a demonic cat fight…what’s not to like? How will it end? I’m a maniac for the macabre. This one goes on my watch list, as always, humble thanks!

    • On Paramount + in the US, this is a B movie for sure, but it’s a minor gem too. Wait till you see Esther confront the detective! I certainly found my head spinning!

      • Nooo…maybe I ruined the surprise, but I didn’t see it coming when she killed the detective.

  3. I dislike horror films, as you know, but I love Julia Stiles. Your comment on her under-utilization is spot on – I’ve never understood why she doesn’t get the opportunity to make more films when she’s clearly earned it.

    I might muster up my courage one day and watch this is broad daylight with many other people around to keep the demons away……

    • It’s weird, and I fully understand that adoption agencies were less than thrilled by the first one…

        • I’ve got plenty on my plate. There’s lots of films that speak positively of adoption, like Instant Family. Then again, if you take your ideas about life from horror movies, maybe adoption shouldn’t be your next port of call.

    • This is better, in that the twist makes sense. I can’t remember much about Orphan, but this is a step up, and filmed in beautiful Winniepeg too..

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