Orphan: First Kill (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Leena Klammer is a 31 year old woman with a rare disorder that causes her to look like a child. She uses this to worm her way into a family by pretending to be their lost daughter Esther.

When you go to see a film you usually have questions you want answered: How will John Wick surpass the previous films? Who’s that mysterious person in the trailer? Is this where we begin to see that the MCU actually does have a plan? With this, the question was more “so it’s a prequel to a film that came out 13 years ago? How’s that going to work? And we already know the twist, she’s not a child, she’s an adult killer, so again; how is this going to work?”

As a general rule, prequels are terrible. They have zero tension because the film tries to put have life or death situations with characters we know to survive. As good as they were, NOBODY watches X-Men First Class and thinks “oh no, I don’t know whether Magneto or Charles Xavier are going to survive”. There’s also sequel escalation to deal with: because it comes after, the natural choice is to have bigger stakes, but it’s a prequel so it just feels weird. The “prequels are terrible” rule is ESPECIALLY true in horror movies; they have a habit of exploring characters who we don’t want to see explored, they ruin the mystery of the villains and make them seem weaker, ruining the whole franchise.

All of that, combined with the fact that I didn’t see any trailers at the cinema for this lead me to go in with low expectations. On the bright side, it’s just over 90 minutes so at least it will be over soon, plus I’m getting free nachos so that’s something.

I was surprised. I genuinely loved this movie. There’s a reveal in this where your experience as a viewer changes. It’s SUCH a good reveal too. The kind that makes you want to watch the film again to see if you can catch it before it happens. It also doesn’t impact the other film in the franchise. This does tie into the previous film, there are a few allusions to it here and there, and the ending directly leads into it. But it is a stand-alone film. It explains the character well enough that if you hadn’t seen the original, you won’t be lost. THAT’S how a film like this should be, it should reward viewers of the original, but it shouldn’t appeal ONLY to them. This is probably my favourite prequel I’ve seen.

Now onto the stand-alone analysis. There seems to be more of a focus on bright colours in this one, which provides a kind of nice motif throughout the whole thing. It’s not exactly unique, but it does make it stand out among the dark greys and browns of a lot of horror films. Directed by William Brent Bell, I’ve seen two of his films before (The Devil Inside, Brahms The Boy 2) and I fucking hated them, but his style works for this. There are some great uses of blank spaces to highlight how small Esther is compared to her surroundings.

Onto Esther, she’s played by Isabelle Fuhrman again, the last time she played her she was 12, she’s now 25. To reiterate: she’s 25, playing a 31-year-old who looks like a 9-year-old. It’s so weird but she pulls it off. This performance puts the character of Esther on another level, and makes you think that they must be really regretting killing her off at the end of the first one, and making the ending of this one tie so heavily into the start of the original. This character deserves to feature in more films, and I’m not sure how they’re going to do that now (although they are planning it). Her story is locked in, we’ve essentially seen the beginning and the end, with no room for a middle. The other members of the cast are okay, most of them are serviceable. Julia Stiles is a revelation though, I’ve seen her in a lot of stuff before, but this is her at her best. It felt like the first time she was a character and not just Julia Stiles. Rossif Sutherland is okay, I guess, but he’s stuck between two superb performances, and just doesn’t match it.

In summary I’d say definitely watched this. It’s a different film to the first one, but one I enjoyed a lot more.

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