A Hooked On Horror Review: Orphan: First Kill
When this film was first announced my initial thought wasn’t a good one. How an earth are they going to make a prequel to Orphan when Isabelle Fuhrman, who was originally a child playing an adult that looks like a child, has now grown into an adult and will no longer be able to play an even younger Esther. Well my friends this is Hollywood after all, and according to Fuhrman herself it was accomplished using a bit of CGI, trick photography and body doubles. As the now 23-year-old actress explained to Newsweek-
“We did a lot of forced perspective and camera tricks and lighting tricks. Then there were so many trial-and-error things. We made this little wheelchair thing for me to walk in, but it didn't work because it didn't look like I was walking. And then we tried these boots that Julia [Stiles] and Rossif [Sutherland] and Matthew [Finian] would wear that were these giant Gene Simmons boots, like huge ones that were all ridiculous looking because where do you get shoes with that high of a platform? They have fringe and they're bedazzled, it's hilarious.”
“These two wonderful young actresses (Kennedy Irwin and Sadie Lee) came every single day and were working on the movie just as much as I was. And we really co-developed Esther's walk and mannerisms in this movie.... And I remember constantly pinching myself, like, 'How was I their age when I did the first one? How was I their age?!?' But I felt really lucky to have them there because it was a constant reminder to be the kid.”
And I just want to point out that the cast and crew did a fantastic job with it! It was very cleverly shot and executed (pun intended). Not once did Esther look a tad dodgy, too old or out of place. It was done incredibly well. I went into this film hoping to enjoy it as much as I did the first film; and I’m happy to say this one is probably on par with the first regarding story and quality.
After escaping from a psychiatric facility in Estonia, Esther travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. Yet, an unexpected twist arises that pits her against a mother who will protect her family at any cost.
The film wastes absolutely no time getting started, and the Bell respects the audience enough to know we don’t need to be told what we learnt about Esther in the first film in detail. You get a bit more of her backstory, but the film doesn’t dwindle on it. When the action starts it doesn’t really waver as the audience get display after display of Esther’s full viciousness and brutality in all its gory glory. Honestly horror fans, if you thought she was brutal in the first film you're in for one hell of a shock.
Now I’ll be honest I thought I knew where this film was going regarding the narrative and plot…I was wrong. I’m not going into any sort of detail here to not spoil anything, but do you remember the first time you watched Orphan? And that big reveal comes where you find out who Esther really is, and you sat there in shock asking yourself “What the f*ck just happened? Wait hang on…WHAT?” I’m delighted to tell you this was very in keeping with its predecessor and gives you one hell of a twist! And from there, it changes the entire feel and dynamic of the film.
The cast were superb, Julia Stiles was fantastic. But of course seeing Fuhrman return as Esther was honestly something special. As we get to delve deeper into her backstory in this film we see a lot more depth and development within her character. I'll be honest, it'll probably enhance my viewing experience next time I re-watch Orphan. As I previously said the gore, kills and brutality is upped massively for this prequel. Some fantastic death sequences and scenes during the film. And the ending; well let's just say it was a very wonderful little nod Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho that had me grinning from ear to ear before leaving the cinema.
All in all this is an incredibly clever, unpredictable and refreshing prequel despite an audience already aware of that jaw-dropping twist that made the 2009 horror such a smash hit. William Brent Bell whole heartedly leaned more into the slasher vibe that was established during the second half of Orphan which only makes the film more enjoyable for any horror fan. Part of me would love to see another film featuring everyones favourite psychotic dwarf, but the other half of me says don't go and ruin something special for a quick cash grab.
Orphan: First Kill is in cinemas now or available to watch via Paramount+ streaming service.