For many, Orphan served as their entryway into horror. The thriller quickly took hold due to its many twists and turns. It certainly helped to have a terrifying little girl at its center. It helped to establish the career of Isabelle Fuhrman, who has emerged as one of our most promising actresses. Following the lineage of great “from hell” films, Orphan became a genuine summer hit. Sadly, the Orphan franchise quickly reveals why it’s not always worth returning to the well. Despite Fuhrman’s return, Orphan: First Kill fails to capitalize on its overqualified cast.

When a therapist arrives at a mental health facility in Estonia, the warden warns the staff about Leena Klamer (Fuhrman), a thirty-year-old woman with the appearance of a child. Leena quickly escapes the facility, making her way to America to pose as a missing child. After doing the research, she attempts to blend into the Albright family. While Allen (Rosif Sutherland), the family’s patriarch, accepts her with open arms, Tricia (Julia Stiles) seems more skeptical. Meanwhile, a police officer (Hiro Kanagawa) continues to push Leena on the details of her story.

Directed by William Brent Bell, the film’s visual style puts it at a disadvantage from the word go. Most shots of the film are draped in shadow and fog. Sadly, this does not create a scary environment or even disorientate the viewer. Instead, it simply washes out the footage. Instead, this gives the film a sludge-like look that often makes the images unappealing to look at.

Beyond the issues with visuals, the story does not hold up much to questioning. What could be an exciting unraveling of family dynamics never materializes into much. Instead, each moment of the film feels like a sprint to the next plot point, rather than hoping to explore the intriguing questions at the film’s heart. How far will you go to protect those you love?

Rather than expand this idea across all of the characters, Orphan: First Kill delivers the message with the blunt end of a sledgehammer. While shows like You and How to Get Away with Murder created tension, Orphan: First Kill struggles in that regard. More than anything, this film simply feels like an attempt to cash in residual interest in the original.

Fuhrman once again brings her all to the film, but without the twist of the first film, she has less to play this time out. Instead of finding nuance, we are in touch with her emotions from the word go. The story also frames her as an anti-hero but never gives us reasons to root for her. Instead, it just assumes that we will be interested in her success.

The inclusion of Stiles almost breaks the film. Her character brings far more exciting ideas and moral quandaries to the film. In addition, Stiles showcases new aspects of herself as a performer, which becomes a pleasant surprise in the movie. As a result, she easily earns MVP status.

While Orphan: First Kill stumbles out the gate, the film provides two fun performances to draw you into the story. While Fuhrman and Stiles feel vastly overqualified for the film, they provide enough energy to make this an enjoyable watch. However, without the dramatic heft or tension of the first film, Orphan: First Kill falls flat.

Alan’s Rating: 4/10

What do you think of Orphan: First Kill? Do you like it more or less than the first film? Let us know in the comments below!

Check out our reviews from Sunshine State Cineplex here!

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