Oh, me of little faith. As a big fan of Jaume Collet-Serra's ORPHAN (2009), I was excited to hear that there would be a sequel but when I heard it would actually be a prequel that took place before the first film, I couldn't help but be a bit skeptical. How in the world were they going to pull that off? Isabelle Fuhrman was even reprising her role as pint-sized nogoodnik Esther! Say what now? Like many of us, I don't think Isabelle has gotten younger in the last 13 years. Obviously, they were going to use CGI in some capacity but that's always less than convincing or a downright annoying eyesore. Well, I'm happy to say they pulled it off with flying colors. There's actually a lot of practical effects and captivating forced perspective trickery involved, and I'd even say that the few moments when the effect isn't 100 percent convincing only adds to the film's overall devilish uncanny weirdness. They somehow transformed an obstacle into an attribute. Praise be.
The year is 2007 and kooky Estonian Leena Klammer (who suffers from a physical disorder that makes her look like a kid even though she's 31) cleverly escapes the mental hospital where she so clearly belongs. A little computer research reveals that she resembles a girl named Esther who had disappeared four years prior in the United States, so she hatches a plan to take her place. Poor, unsuspecting Allen and Tricia Albright (Rossif Sutherland and Julia Stiles, who apparently has been hiding her light under a bushel for years) welcome the imposter Esther into the home they share with snotty son Gunner (Matthew Finlan) but there are little hints that something just ain't right. All this may sound like a slightly modified version of the film's predecessor but stand warned, the film is as clever as "Esther" herself, it anticipates your every assumption and merrily dances on the grave of your expectations (and to the tune of "Maniac" by Michael Sembello no less)
Director William Brent Bell and writer David Coggeshall (with story assist by OG screenwriters Leslie Johnson McGoldrick and Alex Mace) truly understood the assignment as they say.
ORPHAN: FIRST KILL is a delightfully suspenseful, high-camp-infused, LIFETIME movie-bludgeoning, riotous throwback thriller that is every bit as entertaining as the (beloved, by me) sneaky gem that came before it. I'm not even sure we as a society deserve to have such a cinematic joy-dispenser after all of the dumb decisions we as humans have made over the years. Isabelle Fuhrman is a true marvel in her role that somehow harkens back to classic performances like Patty McCormack in THE BAD SEED (â€˜56) and Bette Davis in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (â€˜62) at the same time; she truly owns this character. I thought I knew what I wanted from this film and I was worried I wasn't going to get it but the truth is it's better than I had the capacity to imagine. Now, I just hope I don't have to wait 13 years for the next one! Time's a wastin! We're not getting any younger!