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Orphan: First Kill

Orphan: First Kill  – Film Review
by Fran Winston

Directed by: William Brent Bell
Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland
In cinemas August 19th

The first Orphan film, released in 2009, was extremely well received. It managed to send shivers down your spine without relying on CGI thanks to an intensely creepy performance from child actor Isabelle Fuhrman who played Esther, the Orphan of the title who really wasn’t all that she seemed. Obviously, when a film in this genre does well there is an expectation that there will be a sequel. But when that sequel comes 13 years later and the lead actor is now all grown up you certainly don’t expect them to return to play the same role.

Yet that’s exactly what happens here with an adult Fuhram reprising the role of an even younger Esther in this prequel to the original. Here we learn how she escaped an Estonian psychiatric facility and made her way to America, impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. But in true Orphan style, all is not as it seems with the situation and Esther finds herself somewhat wrongfooted by her “new mother” Tricia (Stiles) who is hiding a multitude of secrets and who will do anything to protect them.

Since this is a prequel you definitely don’t need to have seen the original movie to appreciate it. It completely works as a stand-alone film. It does acknowledge that the first movie exists, but it is a very different flick. The premise isn’t as ludicrous as it seems, as the original was actually based on a true story and once you know that you can just sit back and enjoy the campfest. And this is high camp in the style of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and similar movies but dialled up to 11.

I was sceptical about Fuhrman’s return. She is, after all, a fully grown woman now. Although the original used a lot of forced perspective and clever camera angles to make her look younger than she was I really didn’t think they could pull this off, but you know what, they do! There are some moments where her facial features appear more mature than childlike but overall, with the use of body doubles and all their well-honed tricks, this works. And, of course, Fuhrman knows this character well and she slips back into it as if she was putting on a comfortable pair of slippers.

I was surprised to see Stiles cast in this as it’s not her usual fare. But she is truly sinister as the matriarch of the family who is hiding a dark secret. And she and Fuhrman really gel and have some wonderful scenes together. Despite having seen the first film and knowing the premise, I genuinely did not see the twist coming; it is truly jaw-dropping. This is extremely cleverly written by David Coggeshall and has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

If you’ve seen the original and know the premise this may feel a little lacking in originality but it is still a suitably soapy gothic horror in the old-school tradition. It will leave you a little shaken and with lots to percolate on.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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