Orphan: First Kill (Blu-ray)

After orchestrating a brilliant escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Esther travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family.

October 11, 2022 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I vaguely remember watching Orphan, an eerie horror movie whose twist ending left your head somewhat spinning. I’ll preface this by saying that if you haven’t seen that film, you might want to stop reading here. And, obviously, there’s a mild spoiler alert. OK, now that that’s out of the way…the twist in that film was that the titular character, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) was actually a 33 year-old who had a hormonal disorder that limited her physical growth. It allowed her to pass as a child, though her antics and flirtation with her adopted father (Peter Sarsgaard) gave the film its eerie vibe. Flash forward more than a dozen years and we’ve got…a prequel. Yes, really. So while the 33 year-old hasn’t aged in terms of the movie itself, the actress who played her has. And that’s one of the many problems with this film. And we’re going on the assumption that anyone who sees this has seen the original (and thus, knows the “twist”) – what have the makers of this film done to keep our attention this time around?

We once again meet Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), though it’s the year 2007 (assuming that the original took place when the movie was released in 2009) for point of reference. Esther has escaped from a mental hospital in Estonia. While looking up missing children, she notices the resemblance to the daughter of a well-to-do family in the United States. She decides to pass her off as this girl. Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Rossif Sutherland) work to help her fit into her new family. However, brother Gunnar (Matthew Finlan) seems to be a bit resentful. It’s not long after Esther is ingratiated into this new family that some familiar antics stars: she tries to seduce Allen and let’s just say that a few supporting characters might not be around until the end credits. Sound familiar?

The issue with Orphan: First Kill is that it’s essentially the same movie as its predecessor. This isn’t always a bad thing. Hey, it worked for 21 and 22 Jump Street. It worked for Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U. The point I’m making is that with a film like this, where the original’s ending really did take the audience off guard – it’s just not there. Can you imagine if they tried to do this with a movie like The Sixth Sense? Ok, I think five examples is enough. To the filmmaker’s credit, they do try to introduce something in this one that has the same effect of the original. It doesn’t work. Add to that Isabelle Fuhrman has aged a dozen years since the first film. It’s not her fault, but she looks like an adult. There’s no way around it. To compensate for this we get lots of forced perspective shots, some obvious body doubles used to make her appear smaller than she actually is and so forth. It’s an effort, not a valiant one, but ultimately it turns this thriller into a borderline comedy.

Video: How’s it look?

Paramount’s presentation of the film is shown in a 1.85:1 AVC HD image that leaves little to the imagination. In fact, that’s one of the issues of the film that makes it hard to suspend one’s disbelief. I certainly can’t fault a film for looking good and as we might expect, the detail is excellent, the colors and contrast are spot on (if not played with a bit) and so forth. But as I alluded to above, the actress who plays the titular role simply doesn’t pass for a child anymore. That’s not a fault of the clarity of the transfer, but it doesn’t help us buy what they’re trying to sell. Still, I did enjoy the more narrow aspect ratio of this one, I’m finding that I now prefer films without those black bars. “Back in the day” I was the other way around. Go figure. I’m going off on a tangent – suffice it to say that Paramount’s disc looks the part, so despite what you might think of the film it will look splendid.

Audio: How’s it sound?

If ever there was a by-the-book way to approach a thriller like this, the filmmakers have found it. Included is a DTS HD Master Audio mix that’s strong and does its job, but like the film itself it’s just so predictable that I could have probably written the score myself. OK, maybe not. Vocals are, as expected, strong and crisp. Surrounds are given some ample time as well though the front stage shoulder the majority of the action. If you’re expecting a few jump scares – good news – there are a few! The mix, while satisfying, just really failed to engross me in the film. So while it checks all the boxes, it’s nothing too memorable.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unless I’m totally missing something, this disc is sans features. Not even a trailer.

The Bottom Line

There are some movies that deserve to be remade. There are more than deserve sequels and there are those that should be left alone. I think it goes without saying that this falls into the latter category. I suppose, had the original not been seen and this one was viewed, it wouldn’t be as bad. But I’m guessing that they made this based on the critical and commercial success of the original (the film found a wider audience on home video). I give them an “A” for effort, but ultimately this orphan needs to find a new home.

Disc Scores