ORPHAN: FIRST KILL (REVIEW)
Dir. William Brent Bell
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
A film about a 30 year old portraying a 10 year old was an astounding cult classic with 2009s ORPHAN, a film that put then 10 year old star Isabelle Furhman at front of the queue for child actresses. Now, a further 13 years later, Fuhrman returns in a bizarre twist of fate, a prequel to that film.
Now the first thing to acknowledge is the developmental growth spurt and ageing of Fuhrman which makes the decision a bewildering one however, have faith, FIRST KILL manages to not only continue development of an interesting horror villain but also still throw in some same level surprises that make this an essential viewing for fans of the original film.
Set 2 years before the events of ORPHAN, Esther arrives in America, believed to be the missing daughter of the Albright family, after escaping a mental institution in Estonia. After fleeing she then uncovers a way to portray her youthful persona against a plot to embed into the family.
As expected, things don't play out as the ensemble had wanted and there's bloodshed to follow. But the big question, is how do you play on a twist that's already been played out? Cleverly FIRST KILL has a few cards up its sleeves and leaves as much of an "OMG" moment as the shock revelations hit once more.
That's not to say the film walks a predictable path and the first half feels well trodden, it's not until there's a cat-and-mouse play between Esther and her new family that the film becomes its own.
Julia Stiles gives a career best as a mother unwilling to lose it all with support from Rossif Sutherland and Matthew Finlan giving some far spectrum performances that rival that of the leading lady. There is a huge credit to William Brent Bell for bringing back Fuhrman in a bold, and brave move that could have made a prequel worthy of the bargain bin but instead, what we have is a film that brings a new story into the series and more importantly, tells it well. With the gap between films and nostalgic status of the first film, ORPHAN: FIRST KILL had every expectation to be a cheap cash-in but the direction the film takes to defy any expectation despite knowing the inevitable result, is a testament to how franchise films should be made.
Interestingly, the film was conceived of a number of flaws identified in the original and is set to start a new trilogy but it's one that may struggle to take the weight in its legs as this is no major league film that stretches the suspension of belief but is at least an enjoyable ride. Truthfully, it's about 10 years too late but it's great to see Esther hasn't been abandoned.