“Orphan: First Kill,” the unforeseen prequel

By: Ajah Ragler, Columnist

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

It seems like “Orphan: First Kill” is just one of those movies we weren’t expecting to have a comeback 13 years later. There are more pieces to this story than ever before.

The movie is a psychological horror-thriller movie that premiered in August 2022. It’s presented as a prequel to the 2009 film “Orphan.” The film was directed by William Brent Bell. The starring actors are Isabelle Fuhrman, reprising her role from the first film, and new cast members Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Hiro Kanagawa and Matthew Finlan.

The film reveals how Leena Klammer (played by Fuhrman) became Esther and how she is introduced to her adopted family, whereas, in the 2009 film “Orphan,” her identity is already established.

It begins with her diagnosis of a hormonal disorder called hypopituitarism in January 2007. Due to her hormonal disorder, her appearance gives her a youthful look, although she is a grown woman. She plans an escape from the Saarne Institute through her captivating looks while killing the guards. As she looks up missing girls, she discovers that she resembles a young girl named Esther Albright, who disappeared from her family in 2003. 

Pretending to be Esther, Leena tells the police officers that she is looking for her parents, who live in the United States. The film proceeds with Detective Donnan telling Esther’s parents, Allen and Tricia Albright, that Esther was found. 

Tricia and her son, Gunnar, suspect Leena isn’t Esther early on. However, they make a deal with Leena to continue to play the role of Esther so that the father could stay happy with having his daughter back. However, this plan doesn’t work out in the long run and causes a surprising twist.

I wasn’t expecting there to be a prequel because the plot was resolved in the first film. Also, Fuhrman is much older now. She was about ten when she did the first film. It was very interesting to see how she would reprise her role now that she’s an adult. 

Her acting was incredible in this film. She portrayed her character so well. One thing I liked about her acting was her ability to switch from one role to another. During the scene where she was trying to escape from Saarne Institute, she revealed an innocent side to her, but behind closed doors, she was this psychotic human being.

Although I don’t condone the decisions she makes throughout the plot, I can relate to her experience of accepting who she is. For example, Leena knows that she will never look like an adult due to her hormonal disorder. However, she uses her youth features as an advantage to get what she wants.

Sutherland (Allen) does a fundamental job setting his character away from the other characters. You can tell that he is emotionally invested in his family. He appears as this casual, laidback father with a close bond with the pretend daughter.

I felt sorry for him because his daughter Esther had gone missing. While I can’t relate to losing someone so close, I sympathize with what he is going through. 

At the movie’s beginning, the director and cinematographer do a great job introducing “Orphan: First Kill” with mysterious music playing in the background. The visuals combined with the music give this feeling of anticipation. The eerie music that continued as the scene transitioned to an establishing shot of it snowing made me wonder, as a viewer, who are these people we are about to meet? As the movie continued into the plot, the music switched to suspense, which gave me a feeling that something unpleasant was going to happen. 

When you watch this movie, you’ll never get lost in where the scene occurs because the establishing shots are well put together. The subtitles that popped up during each scene were also helpful in telling us the location. 

The close-ups shots also give you a sense of emotional connection that the cast members have with each other. For instance, there was a close-up shot of Tricia’s reaction when she met her daughter Esther for the first time. This highlighted the cinematographer’s vision, artistic skills, and role of each cast member. 

Furthermore, using a POV shot (Point-of-view shot) was a smart choice because it allows the audience to see what the character sees. In the scene where Leena is looking out the window, as her art therapist, Anna, arrives at Saarne Institute, the viewers also look out the window. POV shots helped me identify Leena as the movie’s main focus. Whenever there was a scene where I felt like I was observing something, I knew it was her doing the same.

The lighting techniques in the film were well thought out. During the scene when the Albright family is having dinner, you notice the frontal lighting technique as the camera shows the mother’s face. It was very visible to see the emotions she was expressing because the rest of the scene around her was dark except for her face. 

Throughout the rest of the movie, the lighting appears dark. You can still see what’s going on in the scenes, but the light’s darkness sets a mysterious tone for the movie. It indicates to the audience that these characters are about to experience something intense.    

Overall, “Orphan: First Kill” is worth watching. I rate this movie a five out of five for the creative storyline, mysterious music, and lighting aesthetics.


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