Thirteen years after the first Orphan came out, a prequel has finally been released. Isabelle Fuhrmann, who played Esther in the first film, is now old enough to play the character again. If you can remember, Esther turned out to be a thirty-three-year old Russian immigrant named Leena Klammer, who posed as a nine-year-old in order to seduce the family patriarch. The idea of a prequel with Fuhrmann returning seemed like a no-brainer. Yet the only reason I see First Kill existing is just so we can see this now twenty-five-year-old play this character again. As someone who watched Orphan in order to prepare for First Kill, I thought it was fine, despite leaning into the generic evil-child film tropes. I only heard tell of it being a somewhat underrated cult classic. After watching First Kill, I can vouch for Orphan by saying that it was the better film that needed no follow-up.
A lot of what made Orphan overcome its premise was the twist revolving around Esther’s identity, who she was, where she came from, and how she got to where she was. First Kill tries to tell Esther’s backstory leading up to the events of the first film, from the psych ward where she was committed to the eventual family she ends up with, and the tragedy that befell them. Yet in constructing the plot, the film takes so much pride in becoming a new horror installment that each moment feels underwhelming. While it is delightful to see Fuhrman put on the child getup, her return is not enough to make up for its storytelling.
Before becoming adopted by the struggling Coleman family as Esther, Leena decided to pose as the missing girl of the Albright family, where she got the name of Esther Albright, as she tricks the authorities (and the family) into believing that she was kidnapped in Russia (How else do you explain the accent?). Though this may be a hard con to pull off as both Esther’s therapist (Gwendolyn Collins), and Inspector Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa) suspect that this “child” is not who she says she is, while mother Tricia (Julia Stiles), father Allen (Rossif Sutherland), and brother Gunnar (Matthew Finlan) try to convince them otherwise. Things get more complicated when Leena discovers that the family has a secret of their own. From then, First Kill goes from what a simple psychological horror prequel into a comedy of sorts, as Leena tries to get closer to the family, only for some type of inconvenience to get in the way.
Being that this is a prequel, you know the tragedy has to eventually happen and Esther has to make it out in order for the first Orphan to happen. Yet with the direction it takes, the choices leading up to the outcome become moot at best. I do appreciate the thrills and freshness on display with the dark humor splashed in, yet I would write off First Kill as a completely unnecessary prequel which serves no purpose other than to make the character of Esther relevant in horror again.