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Orphan: First Kill Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying About The Horror Prequel

Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan: First Kill.
(Image credit: Paramount)

It’s been 13 years since Isabelle Fuhrman first sent audiences spinning with that wild twist in Orphan, so it’s no wonder we were all surprised to hear that the actress would be reprising the role in the prequel, Orphan: First Kill. Curiosity over how they’re going to pull that off, on top of Orphan: First Kill’s fiery first trailer, has really built up some excitement for this follow-up to the cult classic 2009 movie. And if more information is what you need, we are here to provide, as critics have screened the movie and their reviews are in.

Orphan: First Kill takes place before the events of the original movie, obviously, after Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) breaks out of an Estonian asylum, steals the identity of a young girl, and is adopted by Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Rossif Sutherland). It’s safe to say they have no idea what they’re in for, but let’s let the critics tell us what we the viewers can expect, starting with the CinemaBlend review of Orphan: First Kill. Eric Eisenberg rates the film 2.5 stars out of 5, saying the prequel takes too long to get past repetition of the first movie, but still delivers another huge twist. He says: 

The weaknesses in the first two acts of Orphan: First Kill are particularly unfortunate because this is a rare horror movie that ends far better than it begins, and the beginning really takes a lot of wind out of its sails. The third act revelation isn’t as big as ‘that nine-year-old you adopted is actually a 33-year-old homicidal psychotic,’ but it’s also not a development that you see coming… and that’s all I’ll say about it in this spoiler-free venue. It’s the kind of twist that under other circumstances might make you want to rewatch the whole movie in search of clues that you may have missed the first time around, but in this case your time is probably better spent watching something else.

Lena Wilson of The Wrap enjoys the way this prequel leans into the campy aspect of the original’s tone. It’s impossible to take such an absurd story seriously, and Orphan: First Kill plays that perfectly. This one is begging to be viewed in a rowdy theater or with a group at a sleepover, the critic says:

To explain the delights of Orphan: First Kill in full would require spoilers, but know that those delights are many, at least if you’ve got the requisite sick sense of humor. This film is hardly scary — you can see every kill coming from a mile away — but it is still unquestionably horror. This transgressive, ghoulish stuff is what makes the genre fantastic, and First Kill gives its protagonist a final chapter that fits her freakishness.

Vanessa Maki of The Mary Sue agrees with the above assessment, calling Orphan: First Kill a “campy, bloody delight.” While viewers may wonder if knowing the original movie’s twist ending will ruin the fun, this critic says not to worry, because it finds ways to keep the story fresh: 

That may seem similar to the first film’s plot, but without spoiling too much about the twist, I’ll say that Orphan: First Kill does a great job finding fresh horror and new ground to tread in Esther’s story. I wasn’t sure, at all, how the events would play out in the end, which is always a mark of a good horror romp.

Jared Mobarak of The Film Stage, however, gives the film a dismal D+, and while acknowledging the efforts of the director for the hoops he jumped through to make Isabelle Fuhrman still look like a child, the effort was distracting in this “inconsequential, wonky” prequel. From the review:

Give director William Brent Bell some credit: he does his best to make it appear Fuhrman is a child opposite her castmates, no matter the circumstances. Even so, Orphan: First Kill is hardly an attractive film in turn. The number of cuts needed to keep scale and propulsion in-tandem while ensuring we see Esther’s face as often as possible creates a lot of wonky action. Add that most of film seems vignetted with fog and the production value plummets to soap-opera quality.

Matt Donato of IGN rates the movie a “Good” 7 out of 10, saying the prequel justifies its existence by defying the expectations of what rules prequels must follow. The critic says:

Once Orphan: First Kill gets going, its domestic wildness and brash nastiness are an intoxicating scent. Bell honors the anarchy that Orphan's story stands for and does so to his own maniac's rhythm. It’s rarely the prequel anyone could presume, and that's precisely why it'll win over Orphan fans who might have once scoffed at the very idea — let 'em laugh, then prove 'em wrong. Orphan: First Kill is one hell of a startling and uncontainable experience.

If you’ve got the urge to dive into a new Orphan story 13 years later, you can do so starting on Friday, August 19. Orphan: First Kill is being simultaneously released in select theaters, on VOD and streaming to Paramount+ subscribers. Also be sure to check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what other films are coming to theaters soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.