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Orphan: First Kill
I always enjoyed Jaume Collet-Serra's Orphan; it is a fun thriller with a schlocky premise and committed performance from Isabelle Fuhrman as killer prostitute turned faux 12-year-old Russian orphan Esther. I was bummed to see I apparently sold off my Blu-ray copy of the original a few years back when I whittled down my collection, but such is life. Now that the secret is out about Esther, I was not sure whether this sequel, coming roughly 13 years later, had a story to tell. While there are certainly some issues with Orphan: First Kill, I also enjoyed this origin story, particularly its own schlocky twists and turns. Fuhrman is great, again, and she is joined by Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland and Matthew Finlan. William Brent Bell directs, and this is certainly a step up from his The Devil Inside and The Boy.
I will try not to spoil the film's surprises, but it is difficult to discuss the plot without giving away a few details. You have been warned. First Kill begins in Estonia in 2007, where psychiatrists study Leena Klammer (Fuhrman), a 31-year-old woman with a hormonal disorder that causes her to look like a 10-year-old girl. Displeased with confinement, Klammer orchestrates a violent escape before looking up pictures of missing American girls. She finds one that looks like her and tells a cop that she is "Esther" and has been taken from her parents in the United States. Cut to Darien, Connecticut, where our villainess returns to be reunited with her non-family, including mom Tricia (Stiles), dad Allen (Sutherland) and brother Gunnar (Finlan). Esther settles into the family's large estate, but soon returns to her old tricks.
What First Kill lacks in subtlety at times it more than makes up for in mood and performances. This is a handsomely shot film, and all the actors appear committed to the material. There is slow-burn tension that borders on excitement; the audience knows Esther is bananas and we eagerly await her doing something crazy. Tricia notes that Esther does not remember key details about her past, while Gunnar and his buddies are content to bully her for her appearance and attire. Esther bonds with Allen, an artist, and begins acting suspect and overly affectionate, much to Tricia's chagrin. Detective Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa), who worked the original missing person's case, begins snooping around upon Esther's return and also notices some inconsistencies in her story. The movie then takes a sharp left turn in a manner I was not expecting but much appreciated.
Without spoiling the surprises here, I will say I do not think they totally hold up to repeat viewings. That said, Bell and screenwriter David Coggeshall certainly work to keep things interesting, and in that respect they succeed. Let's go ahead and get this out of the way, too: Fuhrman does not look like she is ten years old. The filmmakers do their best to use soft focus and in-camera tricks to fool the audience, but the actress, through no fault of her own, has simply aged since the original. If you can suspend disbelief here, the character is still quite compelling. Esther is always one step ahead of the game, and First Kill manages to turn her into a twisted hero of sorts. Let's just say Esther is not the only sinner here. You can certainly do worse than Orphan: First Kill for modern horror. While it does not reinvent the wheel, there is enough here to entertain.
After debuting on Paramount+, First Kill receives a physical release on Blu-ray only. The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is not the flashiest but it appears to present the source well. As I mentioned, the film often uses softer focus, and much of it has a hazy, dream-like appearance. There is still ample detail in costumes and set dressings, and close-ups are nicely resolved. The cool color scheme and muted appearance are presented well, and outdoor shots have nice depth. I did notice some aliasing and intermittent noise in nighttime scenes, but nothing that is particularly distracting.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is clear and appropriately balanced. Some of the thriller elements make good use of the surrounds, and ambient noise is also allowed to spread out into all the speakers. Dialogue is never crowded and the score is given appropriate depth. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. A digital copy is included but there are no extras.
The filmmakers wisely made this Orphan sequel a prequel, as there is actually some story to tell about our favorite diabolical orphan, Esther. The film is not perfect, but there are some interesting twists and solid performances. The Blu-ray does not offer any bonus content, but the film is Recommended for fans.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.