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Movie Reviews

‘Orphan: First Kill’ is the prequel you didn’t know you wanted

More fun than it has any right to be.

While horror franchises are constantly rebooted or receiving the legacy sequel treatment, it is still surprising to see a sequel to 2009’s Orphan. While it is a decent horror film and does have its fans, it is also not one that people have been clamoring to see another installment from. Yet here is Orphan: First Kill, taking place two years before the events of the original. Esther (played once again by Isabelle Fuhrman) has escaped from an Estonia psychiatric facility and taken on the identity of a missing child. She ends up in the home of a wealthy family

Wisely, Orphan: First Kill addresses the big revelation from the first movie in its opening moments. It is revealed at the end of the original that Esther is not a nine year old girl but a 33-year-old woman. Obviously, this twist would not have the same impact the second time around, so it is explained that she is in her thirties, a con artist, and deadly.

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This allows the movie to get away from any mystery surrounding who Esther is. Instead, it is a question of what is she going to do next. The best horror movies let audiences know that any person can die at any time. Orphan: First Kill makes this clear very early on, adding a sense of danger and suspense. The first half is not filled with twists and in fact comes dangerously close to being too predictable. Still, there is a sense of fun the entire time.

At about the midway point, the big twist occurs and it changes the dynamic of Orphan: First Kill. Things change from being a thriller to cat-and-mouse. The film leans into the sillier aspects of its story and becomes incredibly entertaining. Things move quickly and the back and forth between Esther and her new mother Tricia (Julia Stiles) is fantastic.

Stiles does not work in genre often and seems to be having the time of her life. She brings a terrifying energy that she rarely gets to display. It is a great turn for the Bourne actress and adds to the unexpected quality of Orphan: First Kill. Fuhrman holds her own playing the same character she did thirteen years ago, but two years younger. She and Stiles play off each other perfectly.

The ending feels a little rushed, but one of the final kills is impressively shot. Orphan: First Kill is an unexpected prequel that knows how to handle its source material. The over the top premise is balanced by an even wilder twist. Additional installments in horror are always a mixed bag; this is an example of how to make an entire franchise better.

Orphan: First Kill comes to theaters and Digital and Streaming Paramount+ August 19

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