Just Awkward: Our Review of ‘Orphan: First Kill’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload by - August 19, 2022
Just Awkward: Our Review of ‘Orphan: First Kill’

Sequels can be tricky…prequels even more so…

Coming to PVOD today; Orphan: First Kill dials it back to the beginning of Esther’s story through the use of some visual de-aging techniques and creative storytelling, the film is never quite sure if it’s trying to be over the top and fun, or over stylized and serious.

Esther’s terrifying saga continues in this thrilling prequel to the original and shocking horror hit, Orphan. After orchestrating a brilliant escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Esther travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. Yet, an unexpected twist arises that pits her against a mother who will protect her family from the murderous “child” at any cost.

While Orphan: First Kill admittedly does a few things right, the film has a hard time picking a lane because it’s never quite sure if it wants us to view Esther in the Michael Myers/Jason Voorhees mold or if we’re supposed to look at this little ‘girl’ more in the vein of Chucky or something a little more over the top.

Director William Brent Bell takes over the franchise reigns and while he has extensive experience in the genre his previous efforts have been uneven at best (The Boy franchise, The Devil Inside) and this is no exception.  Sure it all has a very high visual sheen to it, but it’s also bordering on being underexposed as so much of the film takes place in the dark or even the greys of this universe.  It’s hard to know how to feel about a story, when you occasionally have a hard time telling what’s going on in the first place

It paints a very visually grim picture even during the occasional moment where the narrative veers into the more campy and when you really let it all sit without; it’s kind of trying to have the best of both worlds when it comes to horror.  The script from screenwriter David Coggeshall tries to take it all incredibly seriously while never generating any significant amount of menace in the story either and the direction from Bell has his actors playing it all over the map.

Isabelle Furhman actually does an OK job of throwing herself into the awkwardness of it all in revisiting the role she played when she was 11 or 12 now 13 years later while she’s in her mid-20’s.  It’s off putting, but hell, it’s SUPPOSED to be and it allows for the scenario to have a natural level of creepiness and even humor to it.  Sadly the script never quite leans into it while the likes of Rossif Sutherland and Hiro Kanagawa play it mostly straight, Julia Stiles isn’t afraid to chew some scenery and let her freak flag as the matriarch of this family that is quite frankly just as bent as Esther is.

Even though Orphan: First Kill stays true swerves in the original installment and has some genuinely unsettling moments throughout it all plays as a poor substitute as the likes of Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard can carry the emotional weight of a gonzo narrative like this better then Stiles and Sutherland can.  There’s nothing REALLY wrong with Orphan: First Kill but then again there’s nothing really right with it either, it’s just kind of there.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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