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Film / Orphan: First Kill

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"Everyone expects Esther to be broken. What they really want is a happy ending."
"Every artist needs a space to let their inner weirdo out. We get to see beauty and passion where others don't even know to look."
Allen Albright

Orphan: First Kill is a 2022 psychological horror film directed by William Brent Bell and stars Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, and Rossif Sutherland. The film serves as the prequel to 2009's Orphan.

The film follows a younger Esther (Fuhrman) as she poses as the missing daughter of a wealthy American family (Stiles and Sutherland) after escaping the Saarne Institute and emigrating from Estonia to America. However something unexpected arrives, leading to Esther being on edge with the matriarch of the family, Tricia.

The film got a three-way release in theaters, on digital, and Paramount+ on August 19, 2022.


Orphan: First Kill contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The movie is set in 2007 despite being released in 2022. Justified due to its prequel status.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: When Gunnar blackmails Esther into keeping his Dark Secret, she responds by slapping him. When he threatens her if she does it again, she immediately defies him with a follow up, effectively calling his bluff.
  • Asshole Victim: Tricia and Gunnar Albright, who were both fine with covering up the real Esther’s death, both meet gruesome ends.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: Serial Killer Leena stumbling upon Tricia and Gunnar's own deadly con.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: There are many contradictions between the Colemans and the Albrights.
    • Tricia to Kate: The matriarch protagonists that clash with Esther. While Kate is low-functioning and more prone to distress, making her easier to manipulate by Esther, Tricia is more composed and is able to see through Esther's disguise, forcing Esther to reveal her true self and work together with her.
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    • Allen to John: The oblivious patriarches and the targets of Esther's affections. While John was the only one of the Colemans to die and was an Asshole Victim, Allen was the last of the Albrights to die and was Too Good for This Sinful Earth.
    • Gunnar to Daniel: The Big Brother Bullies of the adopted Esther. While Daniel is horrified at Esther's true nature and tries to protect his sister from her, Gunnar refuses to take responsibility for his sister's murder and blackmails Esther into keeping quiet.
    • The real Esther to Max: The cute innocent girls who end up suffering by the Dark Secrets of a family member. Max looked up to Esther as a Cool Big Sis, only for Esther to abuse her into complying with her crimes and eventually tries to kill her and her family. The real Esther Albright was very close specifically to her father, only for her brother to accidentally murder her in a sibling squabble and her mother to cover it up, apparently favoring Gunnar over her.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Leena has been impersonating as Esther to stay with her family but halfway through the movie, she learns that the real Esther is dead and thus has been unintentionally pretending to be a dead person but Tricia convinces her to continue the act.
  • Death of a Child: Off-screen example that happened before the movie's events. The real Esther was killed by her own brother, Gunnar, years ago. Tricia covered up the situation, turning it into a case of a missing child. Leena, assuming Esther's identity, complicates things for both because they know she's not supposed to come back, but later strike a deal with her to maintain each other's charade.
  • Disney Villain Death: Tricia, who covered up the murder of her own daughter and blackmails Leena into keeping the coverup, falls to her death during her struggle with Leena.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Leena, a violent woman who has killed several people including an entire family, looks disgusted and horrified when Tricia tells her the truth behind the real Esther's disappearance, which was actually a coverup for her murder from a sibling squabble.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Tricia and Gunnar wanted to use Leena's con to try and conceal the fact that the real Esther was killed by Gunnar; Tricia specifically wanted to use "Esther's return" as a means fixing Allen's depression over his daughter's disappearance so he would become a happy and successful artist once more. All the while knowing that Leena was an unstable Depraved Dwarf Con Artist and Serial Killer. On top of that, they feel the need to insult her over her class, nationality and condition while also thinking they can control and bully her into compliance. It goes about as well for them as Leena/Esther's own attempts at seducing her adoptive fathers.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The sociopathic Villain Protagonist Esther/Leena Klammer who plans to steal Allen away from the surprise twist Big Bad Duumvirate of Tricia and Gunnar who both covered up the real Esther's death at the latter's hands. Leena proved to be Eviler than Thou as she successfully destroys the Albrights.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Obviously, the Albright family is Doomed by Canon before Esther moves on to the Colemans.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In many parts of the movie, Tricia can come off as somewhat nit-picky when questioning Esther about her interests and mannerisms, as well as repeated insistence that "Esther's not coming back" (as the real Esther went missing when she was 3 years old), and Leena impersonates her as 7, Tricia seemingly ignoring the fact that "Esther" was supposedly kidnapped and possibly traumatized, and that children can grow up to have different interests than they would a few years ago, like when she noted that Esther was more into painting now than when she was younger). But after the reveal, it makes sense since Tricia covered up for Gunnar killing the real Esther, she knows that the Esther that found them wasn't really her, and she's trying to call her bluff or make her slip up.
    • When coming home from an event, Allen hopes that the house is still standing, telling a story about how he nearly burned down the house when he was sixteen. Cue the climax where the house is set ablaze thanks to a running stove as Tricia tried using that to kill Leena.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The twist of the movie reveals that Esther isn't the only Big Bad of the movie. Two of her targets are too. Once it's revealed they know she's a fake, the dynamic shifts to a tension between Leena and Tricia, now on the same playing field, both trying to have their evil way while hiding their respective cons from others.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character: This film reveals that Leena Klammer's "Esther" persona was taken from a missing child she physically resembled, and she used it to flee to the United States by "reuniting" with Esther's family, whereupon Esther's identity is only explored through Leena's attempts to take her place. Leena learns she's been doing a Dead Person Impersonation later on, with the mother and son having covered up Esther's sororicide with a missing-persons story.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Leena swigs down vodka after a tense first meeting with Tricia on a private plane.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The film wastes no time on establishing Leena Klammer as a mentally disturbed adult with dwarfism who poses as a young girl. Unavoidable for a second film, since the information couldn't be played for the audience as a twist more than once.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Some moments alluding to Leena's true age also function as Lampshade Hanging about Isabelle Fuhrman now being an adult woman the way Leena is, with characters describing her as having "grown up" and looking like a "little lady".
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Esther and the evil Albrights have no moral high ground over each other, but Tricia covered up Gunnar's murder of his own little sister and are overtly xenophobic and classist against Esther for being Eastern European as well as using ableist terms to disparage her dwarfism... all this while forcing her to play into their cover story while mistreating her. Also, Esther was originally content with just leaving the family and abandoning the charade and had no intentions of hurting them initially—notable for someone who had already murdered a family.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Esther successfully kills Tricia and Gunnar to have Allen all to herself, but her disguise falls off at the worst possible time and he rejects her, prompting her to murder him too and start over with another family (presumably the ones before the Colemans).
  • Never Trust a Title:
    • The film starts after Leena has been instutitionalized in the Saarne for murder, so Leena's first kill isn't depicted in First Kill.
    • Also, in this story, her child grift sees her posing as a missing child with a family rather than an orphan, leaving the franchise title Orphan inaccurate to this story as well, at least until the ending, when both of her "parents" are dead.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: There should be a rule to never let one's guard down when it looks like Esther is down for the count. Tricia and Gunnar Albright learn this the hard way after pushing her down a flight of stairs and throwing her across the kitchen counter, only to see that her body has disappeared every time they take their eyes off of her.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Subverted multiple ways. Leena is a strong physical match for the missing Esther, but her quirks and behavior, including her accent and attire, leave a lot to be desired, as does her lack of knowledge about the family she's "reunited" with. She still gets by, though... because the mother and brother have known she was an impostor the whole time and allowed her to stay to cover the skeletons in their closet regarding the murder of the real Esther.
  • Prequel: The film takes place before the first, obvious due to the title literally being "First Kill."
  • Retcon: The second film contradicts Leena's cut backstory from the first. Her jump from institutionalization to posing as an orphaned child now doesn't involve being arrested in a pedophilic sex work ring. She escaped the Saarne Institute, claimed to be an American family's missing child to flee Estonia, the family all died due to circumstances she was not entirely responsible for, and she was taken to the orphanage by the police. There's also an implication that she began killing her foster mothers and foster siblings then trying to seduce her foster fathers because of her experience with the Albrights.
  • The Reveal: The real Esther that Leena is posing as was killed by her brother Gunnar years earlier, and their mother Tricia covered it up, so she is more than willing to keep up Leena’s ruse to save her own skin.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Esther's scheme bears a huge similarity to the real-life case of Frédéric Bourdin, an adult impostor who claimed to be missing American teenager Nicholas Barclay after researching missing American children. The film also includes as truth the heavy suspicion by Bourdin and a private investigator that the real Nicholas was murdered by his mother and brother and they knowingly took Bourdin in to maintain the lie that Nicholas went "missing" which was never conclusively proven.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The Reveal in the middle of the film makes the fairly implausible plot setup much more reasonable: Leena gets away with posing as the missing daughter of a family not because she's good at it (what with all her obvious quirks), but because the mother and son have known Leena isn't Esther the whole time. Turns out she's accepted despite her glaring differences because her con resolves their own con of them covering up the real Esther's murder as a disappearance. With Leena posing as Esther, they're able to save face.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Everything Tricia has done to protect Gunnar end up being for nothing when he is killed by Leena, enraging her into desperately trying to kill her.
  • Villainous Mother-Son Duo: Midway through the film, Tricia and Gunnar are revealed to be this, with him having killed the real Esther and her covering it up to protect him.
  • Wham Line: As Leena repeatedly stabs Detective Donnan, she asks him how he knew she wasn't Esther when "her own mother" doesn't. The detective's response?
    Detective Donnan: Yeah, kid. She does.
  • Wham Shot: Detective Donnan is shot, but rather than Leena/Esther being the one to pull the trigger, it is Tricia, who already knew about Leena's con.
  • You Monster!: After finally learning Leena is not actually Esther when her dentures slip out as he caresses her face, Allen rejects her by calling her a monster. Leena kills him for it, ending the Albright family. The only member of the Albright family that Leena did not cause the death of through her actions was the real Esther Albright.