Considering ORPHAN was released in theaters back in 2009, I was surprised that not only a new ORPHAN film was in production, but that it would also be a prequel with the same young actress now 13 years older. While I was curious enough to want to see what eventually would become ORPHAN: FIRST KILL, I also kept asking myself if a prequel to ORPHAN was even necessary. ORPHAN isn’t a horror film that a whole lot of people were talking about until the new film, even if it did do well enough at the box office. And considering how that film ended, it was obvious that the movie wasn’t meant to create a franchise for future installments.
It’s pretty common storytelling for a prequel like this. That is, until the twist midway through the movie that changes everything about ORPHAN: FIRST KILL. I usually see twists coming a mile away in these types of films, but this one threw me for a loop when it presented itself. While the first half was pretty pedestrian, the second half is where the film really takes off and gives itself a reason for existing to begin with. The drama increases. The tension and atmosphere get thicker. With this new information, you’re just waiting for the dam to burst. It’s done so well and the change in narrative is so bonkers, that you actually start to feel sympathy for a character who, before, wouldn’t or shouldn’t get any. It changes the complete dynamic of this sequel and I lived for it every second. While the conclusion is very predictable considering this is a prequel, the ride getting there is more fun than it has any right to be.
After 13 years since the first film’s release, I was not expecting ORPHAN: FIRST KILL to be as good and as fun as it is. While this prequel starts out pretty pedestrian, the plot twist midway into the film changes the narrative completely, taking the audience on a tense filled and insane ride to its predictable ending. The twist turns a pretty standard horror film into B-movie gold that doesn’t fail to be entertaining. While the direction by William Brent Bell isn’t anything to talk about, despite doing what it needs to do visually, the use of de-aging CGI and body doubles for the Esther character are used well for the most part. And actresses Isabelle Fuhrman and Julia Stiles carry the film from beginning to end, giving multi-layered performances that get pretty interesting as the film rolls on. I’m really surprised how much I enjoyed ORPHAN: FIRST KILL, as this prequel has no right being as entertaining as it is. I wouldn’t be opposed to a future installment if this movie is successful enough.