An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at the Paramount+ exclusive, 2022’s Orphan First Kill the prequel to 2009’s Orphan starring Isabelle Fuhrman
After escaping from a psychiatric hospital in Estonia, Leena (Isabelle Fuhrman) cons a family into thinking she’s their long-lost daughter Esther.
Is it Scary?
While there are a few jump scares in the first half of the film, Orphan First Kill leans more into the suspense of how long before the family finds out Esther’s secret. There are a few creepy moments and some gore but overall you won’t leave Orphan First Kill scared unless you recently conned a family into thinking you’re their long lost relative.
The film opens in Estonia 2007 as Anna Troyev (played by Gwendolyn Collins), an art therapy instructor, arrives at the mental hospital, The Saarne Institute, for her first day at work. At the entrance, she’s searched and meets with the Director who takes her on a tour before they are interrupted by an orderly who informs him that a patient, Leena, is missing.
Anna asks who Leena is and the Director tells her Leena is their most dangerous patient. He casually also mentions that she is the reason they needed a new art therapy instructor. Telling someone that the reason they were hired is due to a patient murdering their predecessor is important, but probably not when that patient has just gone missing.
The Director takes Leena into a room and instructs her to not leave until he returns. He then shuts the door which is electronically locked by security.
Since no one cleared the room, guess who is sitting at a table just a few feet from the door? That’s right, the missing patient, Leena (played by Isabelle Fuhrman). Anna, not knowing she is Leena and because she is a child, assumes she is the daughter of one of the doctors. Leena does a quick sketch of Anna and then gets up grasping the pencil like she’s about to Michael Myers it up.
The director and the orderlies rush in before Leena can do anything and they take her back to her room. Meanwhile, since Anna hasn’t seen the first movie she is shocked to learn Leena is a child. The Director tells her Leena is actually 31 years old but has a gland disorder which has haltered her growth appearing 10 years old. We then cut to Leena in her room putting on a fake set of teeth.
Back with the director, he continues filling Anna in on Leena’s backstory which is as you expect; violent. We learn that when Leena first arrived at the institute, her desire to leave was so high, she struggled with her restraints until they left deep cuts on her wrists and neck, leaving behind scars.
Before being sent to the institute, Leena was a con artist that posed as missing children before robbing the families. Two years prior she ran the same scam but this time she killed the family. Hold up, why is this movie called first kill? We just found out she’s already killed.
Sometime later (same day because of security footage timestamp) the patients including Leena are in art therapy as Anna watches over them. Leena calls over to another patient, Idti, and shows her a piece of candy. Idti immediately and violently lunges towards Anna but is stopped by the orderlies. As Idti is dragged out of the room, Leena throws her the piece of candy and sheepishly tells Anna that Idti does that sometimes.
Later (still the same day) a security guard, Dmitri, drops off a package for Leena and watches through the window on the door as she pulls out a dress. It’s overtly clear Dmitri is attracted to Leena, gross since she has the appearance of a ten-year-old. Leena is aware of his lust and asks him to help her tie the wristlets on her wrists. She then invites him into her room and he excitingly agrees.
Standing on a chair, she caresses him and then bashes his head into the wall multiple times, seemingly killing him. She grabs his keycard, packs up her stuff, and runs out of the room. With almost no problem at all, she reaches the main door but that’s when a guard finally shows up. But as the camera pans around we see Idti, the violent patient that tried to kill Anna just hours ago, sweeping the floor nearby.
Why is she allowed to sweep right by the front door hours after almost killing someone? Because the movie needs to happen. Leena calls out to her and asks if she wants a piece of candy causing Idti to jump on the guard. While Idti murders the guard with his own nightstick, Leena escapes.
Meanwhile, guess who is outside just trying to get to her car in a snowstorm? It’s Anna, who sees Leena leaving the building and rushes back inside to tell the Director. We jump to a little bit later with the Director apologizing to Anna for the shitty first day and Anna quits because it’s a bit worse than “a bad first day”.
Later Anna arrives at her home but before she gets inside, the trunk of her car opens. Did she not lock the doors after seeing Leena outside the institute? The answer is no because as Anna enters her front door, Leena appears and knocks her out.
In the house, we get a couple of intermixed scenes of Leena playing the piano, cleaning up, drinking wine, and using the computer to look through missing person pages until she finds one for a girl named Esther who looks like her. Deciding to pretend to be Esther, Leena writes her name in her diary/bible. She then changes into the dress from earlier complete with a choker and wristlets to hide the scars of her restraints.
Before Leena leaves the house, she sees the still alive but severely injured Anna waking up a the bottom of the stairs. Leena grabs the tire wrench and kills her.
Later we see Leena swinging on swings at a playground when a cop shows up. He asks her where her parents are and what her name is. Leena tells him her parents are in America and her name is Esther. DUN DUN DUNNN
Cut to a fencing competition in Darien, Connecticut where we meet the Albrights, husband and wife Allen and Tricia (played by Rossif Sutherland and Julia Stiles respectively) along with their 16-year-old fencing champion son Gunnar (played by Matthew Finlan).
After Gunnar’s victory, Allen and Tricia are approached by Detective Donnan (played by Hiro Kanagawa) who informs them they have an update on their missing daughter, Esther.
Now in Russia, Tricia arrives at the embassy to meet with Leena who I’ll be calling Festher from now on since she’s Fake Esther. We learn the real Esther has been missing for four years and authorities believe whoever kidnapped her brought her to Russia. Upon seeing Festher, Tricia immediately believes she is her daughter and the two hug.
A little bit later on a private jet (the Albrights must be loaded), Tricia is showing Festher pictures of the family. Festher exclaims she can’t wait to see her grandmother but is told by Tricia that she passed a while back implying that Festher should have known that. Rookie mistake. At the airport, the two reunite with the overjoyed Allen and the suspicious Gunnar.
The family arrives at the house and Festher looks around shocked but delighted. Tricia and Allen take her to her room which is just how it was before the real Esther disappeared. When asked, Festher says she likes to paint and we learn Allen is a pretty famous painter with a studio in the house.
The following day Tricia takes Festher to see Dr. Segar, Esther’s therapist (played by Samantha Walkes). Before they arrive Tricia asks Festher if she remembers her and says she is the ‘one with the parrot, Sydney’. Festher lies and says she remembers. While meeting with Dr. Segar alone, Festher sees the parrot and, feigning excitement, calls it Sydney.
After their meeting, Dr. Segar meets with Tricia alone and Festher sneaks into another room where she hears their conversation. Turns out the parrot is not Sydney. Sydney was a larger bright red and orange macaw and not this lame-ass green parrot Dr. Segar has now. Yet another rookie mistake.
Upon hearing the fuck up, Festher rips her dress at the shoulder, screams, blames another child in the waiting room, and tells Tricia she wants to go home. Outside Festher spots Detective Donnan taking her picture from afar.
As Festher is about to walk into the house, Gunnar’s dickbag friends arrive in an orange hummer and one of them insults Festher while asking her to get Gunnar. Festher curses him out in Estonian as Gunnar shows up. After they leave Allen invites Esther to his studio so they can paint together.
Allen shows her his studio and we learn that ever since Esther’s disappearance he hasn’t painted much. We see that Allen is famous for his paintings that use a special invisible paint that only shows up under blacklight. So now we know where Festher got the idea to make those violent blacklight paintings in the first movie. Remember how everyone was wondering that? No?
Festher asks to paint Allen and he happily poses but neither one notices Tricia watching them from another room while on the phone. The extremely talented Festher paints a pretty good portrait of Allen and he runs off to get some paint. While Tricia watches, Festher rubs the lips of the portrait and then caresses her own lips. Uh oh, someone is in love with their fake dad.
That night as Festher is in her bathroom, Tricia enters her room and finds the diary/bible. Before she can open it Festher walks in and snatches it from her while saying it’s private.
Tricia apologizes and says she was just looking for her gold watch that has mysteriously gone missing. After she leaves, Festher looks for a place to hide her diary/bible and finds Esther’s diary where she calls Tricia ‘mummy’. After practicing saying ‘mummy’ instead of ‘mother’, Festher joins the family for dinner where she calls Tricia mummy, making her emotional.
Allen tells the family about Festher’s amazing art skills and Gunnar, being the only suspicious one, questions how it’s possible since she could barely draw stick figures before her disappearance.
Detective Donnan arrives which immediately makes Festher nervous. She excuses herself to fill up her cup with water but secretly hides in the hall to listen to the conversation. Donnan wants to question Festher the following day as whoever kidnaps Esther might still be on the loose.
Allen and Tricia agree to let him question her but Festher pops out and reminds Tricia about her charity gala. Donnan agrees to question her the day after but also points out that Festher never filled up her glass. Looks like Gunnar isn’t the only suspicious one. Also if Festher keeps making these rookie mistakes it’s going to be really interesting to see how she gets out of this.
That night Festher packs up a bunch of jewelry and money that I guess she’s been stealing from the family and gets ready to run away. Before she leaves she spots a rat in the vent and says she’s sorry it has to live there.
Outside, Festher sees Allen painting in his studio and decides to stay. The next day, while out on a run, Tricia stops and looks at some pictures of Festher and Esther on her phone. It appears Tricia might be having some doubts. That night as Tricia and Allen get ready for the gala, Allen gets a bit handsy and Tricia points out that ever since Festher arrived Allen has been back to his old self.
The two are about to have sex but don’t notice Festher at the door. Angry, she rips Tricia’s dress that was hanging on the door and storms away. A little bit later, now in a different dress, Tricia and Allen set off for the gala leaving Gunnar to watch Festher.
Gunnar immediately does the teen thing and throws a party with his friends in the backyard complete with weed and alcohol. One of the teens asks him about Festher and he calls her Lizzie Borden which Festher arrives to overhear. Gunnar tries to get her to leave but she tells him to go fuck himself. The doorbell rings and it’s Detective Donnan.
Gunnar tells him his parents aren’t home but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly why Donnan dropped by. Donnan asks if he’s having a party as he can smell the weed from the street.
Before he leaves, Donnan asks to use the restroom but instead goes into Festher’s room where he takes a record after finding her fingerprints on them. Festher watches him leave her room and she rushes in making sure her diary is still there. She notices her record missing from the record player and angrily slams her diary onto it before leaving the house.
Tricia and Allen arrive home and Tricia enters Festher’s room where she sees the diary on the record player. Looking through it she finds a picture of herself and Allen with her face scratched out and a newspaper article of Detective Donnan with his address written on it. On the last page she finds ‘The Saarne Institute’ stamped onto it.
At his home, Detective Donnan runs Festher’s fingerprints and finds out they aren’t a match. He then hears a sound that is clearly a door and his entire search is him standing up looking left and right and sitting back down. This man is a detective.
Unsurprisingly Festher pops up behind him and stabs him in the back multiple times. As he falls to the ground, Festher questions how he figured out she was not Esther even after she was able to fool Tricia. Donnan says “she knows” as he’s shot multiple times by someone off-screen.
The camera pans around and we see the shooter is Tricia. She shoots Donnan in the head for good measure and then points the gun at Festher. What is happening right now?
We cut a little bit later and Festher has told Tricia the truth while Tricia seems nonchalant about the whole thing. Festher asks her to let her go and she’ll disappear but Tricia says she can’t have Esther disappearing twice. Festher realizes that Esther didn’t actually disappear and Tricia reveals Gunnar accidentally killed Esther four years ago.
Tricia and Gunnar covered up the death by claiming someone kidnapped Esther and never told Allen the truth. Tricia then gives Festher a choice, she can either continue pretending to be Esther since it’s fixed Allen or she can be sent back to Estonia in handcuffs. With no other choice, Festher agrees to keep up the lie and helps Tricia hide Donnan’s body.
Later Tricia and Gunnar are outside by the firepit and Gunnar is shocked to learn Festher is actually a grown woman. The two debate what to do about her and they decide to keep up the charade for now and when the time is right, they’ll kill her.
Meanwhile, Festher is in her room becoming friends with the rat in the vent. The following day while Gunnar shows Allen how to use a crossbow, Tricia tells Festher they have the therapist meeting to go to and they’ll have to prepare for it.
At the meeting, it’s clear Tricia has coached Festher on what to say regarding several family vacations but this somehow convinces Dr. Sager. Later at the house, in a bordering-on-comedic scene, Tricia coaches Festher on how to lie and gets her a bunch of pink dresses as they prepare for a dinner party.
After the party, Festher enters her room where Gunnar is waiting for her. He tells Festher he owns her and calls her a freak because of her disorder. She smacks him and he threatens to kill her like he did Esther. He then shows his xenophobic side when he says the police will never believe her since ‘this is America’ and people like him matter.
Later Tricia crushes up a sleeping pill into Festher’s food but Festher refuses to eat when she’s told she can’t accompany Allen to an art gallery the next day. Excusing herself, Festher takes her food to her room and gives it to her rat friend.
Allen then comes into the room and invites Festher to join him in the studio for some quality painting time. After some time, Allen heads to bed while Festher continues. Tricia arrives, calls her a mutant, and berates her for thinking Allen could ever want to be with her. Sheesh, never thought I’d say this but I think I kinda want Festher to kill this family… except for Allen.
That night while in bed, Festher finds her rat friend has died from the food. Angry, the next day she makes a smoothie for Tricia but Tricia is suspicious of it. Allen encourages her to drink it and she takes a sip. She then spills the cup out in the sink and we see Festher has added a special ingredient to the smoothie. That ingredient is rat.
Later the family is at the train station and while Allen goes to get some coffee for himself and Tricia, Festher sees an opportunity to push Tricia and Gunnar onto an oncoming train.
Unfortunately, a good samaritan grabs Festher before she can push them and Allen arrives questioning what is going on. Gunnar lies saying Festher tripped and Allen believes it. He then bids farewell to the family and hops on the train to the art gallery. Meanwhile, Tricia tells Festher that since she tried to kill her, their arrangement is now over.
Festher tries to run off with Tricia’s purse but Tricia grabs her and the two struggle. Pushing Tricia to the ground, Festher grabs some pepper spray from the purse and sprays Gunnar allowing her to escape.
Festher runs to the car and drives off. Thinking she’s won, Festher blasts some music (appropriately it’s Maniac by Michael Sembello), puts on some lipstick, sunglasses, and lights a cigarette. Moments later the police pull her over.
Back at the house, the police call Tricia letting her know that they found Festher but that they also let Allen know. A cop drops off Festher and Tricia tells them that Festher has been acting erratically to the point where she might be suicidal. Essentially she’s laying down the groundwork for when they fake her suicide.
Festher enters the house and heads directly to her room but realizes what’s going on when Tricia and Gunnar enter her room. Gunnar grabs Festher and holds her arm out while Tricia grabs a pair of scissors. Festher spits in Tricia’s face shocking Gunnar long enough for her to elbow him in the stomach.
Festher runs off but Gunnar catches up to her at the top of the stairs and the two struggle. Losing his temper, Gunnar throws Festher down the stairs and assumes she’s dead. Tricia runs over and is pissed as this ruins their suicide plan. Tricia then gets a call from Allen who tells her he got a call from police and is on his way home. Meanwhile, Gunnar looks back towards the bottom of the stairs and sees that Festher is gone.
Tricia tells Gunnar to find her and finish it. Grabbing his fencing sword, he hears Festher in Allen’s studio and runs over. There Festher surprises him with the crossbow and shoots him in the chest, throwing him back onto the ground.
Festher runs over, picks up his fencing sword, and stabs him to death. Tricia arrives in time to see her dead son as Festher runs off. In the kitchen, Festher turns on the burners just as Tricia arrives and the two start fighting.
After smashing some plates on each other’s heads, bashing each other’s heads on the ground, missing with a knife, Tricia throws Festher across the room over the kitchen island. But walking over to the other side she sees Festher is now gone.
She grabs a knife and heads out of the kitchen.
Tricia chases Festher to her room where she monologues giving Festher enough time to reach a window and climb out onto the roof. Tricia chases after her and we see the entire first floor of the house is on fire… the hell is that house made out of? Gasoline? It’s been like a minute!
Allen arrives by cab, sees the two on the roof, and tells the driver to call the fire department. Meanwhile, on the roof, Tricia continues chasing after Festher and the two slide down the tiles but grab onto the ledge. With both women hanging on, Allen arrives and climbs out onto the roof.
Festher yells out that Tricia tried to hurt her and Tricia reveals that Festher is actually a 30-year-old woman. Honestly, this probably wasn’t the best time for any of this. Tricia loses her grip and falls to her death but Allen is able to save Festher; apart from the whole still being on the roof of a gasoline house part.
Allen hugs Festher as the police arrive and then for some reason he touches her face in a way that makes her false teeth pop out. I watched that part multiple times and still can’t answer why he would do that or how that would happen or why she let her teeth pop out. She doesn’t even try to stop them from popping out.
This freaks Allen out and he calls her a monster which causes Festher to reactively push him causing him to fall off the roof to his death. Festher climbs back into the house and while it’s still burning, she takes time to fix up her hair and casually grab her diary. She then walks out of the house like it’s not on fire just as the fire department arrives.
The film ends as Festher is sitting in the therapist’s office and we hear the therapist telling someone that they’re taking her to an adoption agency connecting this movie to the original… sort of.
Story Inconsistencies between Orphan First Kill and Orphan
In Orphan which takes place in 2009, we learn that Festher disappeared from the Saarne Institute a year prior in 2008 but Orphan First Kill takes place in 2007.
In Orphan, we’re told the family that brought Festher to America died in a house fire but it’s implied she was adopted by that family not that they were her actual family like in Orphan First Kill.
Around the midpoint of Orphan, we also learn the surname of that family was Sullivan yet here it’s the Albrights.
None of these are story-breaking nor do they ruin the movies in any way, it’s just always fun to see what changes a writer creating a prequel has to make in order to justify their own story. Of course, if a sequel to Orphan First Kill is made, these inconsistencies could be explained and maybe that’s the plan.
Orphan First Kill is way better than I expected it to be or thought it could be. The movie doesn’t attempt to be coy about who Leena is or what she’s about, it assumes you already know what the big twist of the first movie was (Leena being a 31 year-old serial killer).
This is what had me worried about this prequel, what could they do to make Leena/Esther’s story interesting when the main hook of the first movie was the twist? Well, turns out I had nothing to worry about because the main twist in this film exceeded my expectations.
It was a great twist that didn’t ruin any preceding parts of the movie and happened at the point of the movie where it was starting to get stale. It might have helped the movie a bit more if it happened slightly earlier, since the Festher versus Tricia dynamic was pretty fun.
Maybe it was because I went in with low expectations but it turned this ‘eh’ movie into a good one. It completely changed the dynamic and motivations of all the characters and turned the story on its head.
Now for the usual, the acting by all actors was well done, nothing special about the dialogue but also nothing bad. Isabelle Fuhrman and Julia Stiles shine in their respective roles especially after the twist. The story and character motivations for the most part made sense.
Detective Donnan continuing to investigate Festher didn’t make a lot of sense though, sure he wanted to find out who kidnapped Esther but why did feel the need to check her fingerprints? Did he know about Esther’s death? Was there some other reason he was so suspicious?
Like I pointed out in the detailed plot section, Allen accidentally revealing Festher’s teeth felt contrived. It was like the writers knew the movie had to end up with everyone dead and needed to force his death so they came up with the teeth freak out at the last minute.
Overall I would recommend Orphan First Kill to anyone who was a fan of the first and even those who haven’t seen the first movie, although it will ruin the twist of the original.