Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by William Brent Bell.

Starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland.

Horror, US, 99 minutes.


Released in the UK in cinemas August 19th by Signature Entertainment


As bizarre ideas for prequels go, making one to 2009’s ORPHAN with its now fully grown star reprising the role of a homicidal 30-year-old adult woman who suffered from a rare case of dwarfism giving her the appearance of a 10-year-old child, is pretty high up there. That the now 25-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman does it so successfully here without the aid of CGI de-aging, instead relying on such old-school techniques of forced perspective, adults in platform shoes, child doubles and subtle make-up, ensure that ORPHAN: FIRST KILL is that very rare beast; a prequel that no-one really asked for but proves its worth by leaning into its absurdity and providing a far more entertaining film than anyone could expect.


Taking us back to 2007 we get to see how Esther made her way to America from an asylum in Estonia. Faking her identity after an audacious breakout from an asylum Esther finds herself embraced by the Albright family, believing her to be their own daughter who went missing years before. Esther soon finds herself scrambling to cover her lies as suspicions mount from detective who investigated the disappearance of the real child starts poking his nose in.


The original ORPHAN made good on its premise of a murderous child with its outrageous twist. Fuhrman’s unsettling performance with its slightly icky premise no doubt left a bad taste with some viewers, this time around the films writers and director mostly avoid the troubling aspects by leaning into the ridiculous premise. Once again there is a twist introduced that makes the film a near camp exercise with its tongue firmly in its cheek. A large part of the success here is down to Fuhrman, who recently impressed again with her intense drama THE NOVICE. Where the first film had a child portraying an adult pretending to be a child, we now only have a fully grown pretending to be a child, a still bizarre premise that never takes itself seriously.


While still a homicidal con-woman the audience can’t help but root for Esther and the outlandish predicament she finds herself in here. As unwitting teenagers make fun of her old-fashioned ways, her dead eyed stare as she graphically describes her true bloodthirsty thoughts of her plans for them mark Esther out as a cinematic cult figure that deserves to stand tall with the likes of those other icons of slasher cinema. With this second entry Fuhrman’s far more knowing performance of Esther, as well as Bell’s awareness of exactly how to tackle the premise make ORPHAN: FIRST KILL a more than worthy entry into Bad Seed cinema.


However, it sometimes feels that Bell is holding back in some regards. While as homicidal as ever there is a restraint in the results of Esther’s homicidal tendencies that will disappoint anyone expecting anything more excessive than some spatters of blood splashed liberally about. Despite checking itself in such a manner there is still a lot to enjoy here.


Iain MacLeod


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans