dir. William Brent Bell
Coming some 13 years after the original, Orphan: First Kill continues a delightful trend of 2022 of franchise films that are a lot better than they have any right to be. Where Prey and Top Gun: Maverick were defined by stripping back to basics and adding innovation, this new instalment works best by taking the formula of the original and giving it an ingenious twist: one that initially blindsides before leading to a satisfyingly violent conclusion.
After a mental asylum escape, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) – an adult who resembles a child thanks to a rare condition – infiltrates a rich family by posing as their missing daughter. But just when things appear to be a moderately entertaining retread, director William Brent Bell (The Boy) and writer David Coggeshall throw a blood-spattered curveball. To reveal more would spoil the delights of this prequel, but how things play out is remarkably compelling.
Fuhrman slots back into the role of Esther well, her performance blending with some de-ageing CGI to give the character an icy quality, seemingly always planning her next move and leading the audience to even root for this micro-psycho at times. The rest of the cast also do solid work, with Julia Stiles a particular standout as the family matriarch.
A chilly first half gives way to an increasingly camp second, with First Kill resembling some of the more enjoyable domestic horrors of the late 80s and early 90s (The Stepfather in particular). But it also shares DNA with last year’s gonzo Malignant, and is sure to become a talking point in the horror community. Either way don’t sleep on Esther’s return: it’s sure to delight and enthral.
© Russell Bailey
Signature Entertainment presents Orphan: First Kill exclusively in Cinemas from 19th August