Paramount Will Distribute Orphan: First Kill, Introducing Us To Phony Killer Kid Esther

"Orphan," one of my all-time favorite horror movies, is getting a prequel called "Orphan: First Kill." And that prequel has found a home at Paramount. Does this mean it might end up going straight to Paramount+ like the upcoming new "Paranormal Activity" and "Pet Sematary" movies? Or will the orphan subsequently known as Esther head to theaters instead? We'll have to wait and see. "Orphan: First Kill" brings back Isabelle Fuhrman as Leena, a mental patient who poses as a child in order to get close to – and murder – families. 

Orphan: First Kill

Released in 2009, "Orphan" is a wonderfully trashy horror movie about a family that adopts a little girl. It becomes clear rather quickly that the little girl, named Esther, is out of her damn mind – and homicidal, to boot. But wait, there's a twist! At the end we learn that Esther isn't a child at all; she's Leena, an adult woman with hypopituitarism, a condition that makes her appear to be a child. Leena has spent her life conning her ways into families, pretending to be a child. And when she's in danger of being found out, she murders everyone. Like I said: it's trashy stuff, but it's also pretty damn entertaining thanks to the stylish direction of Jaume Collet-Serra. 

And now here comes the prequel, "Orphan: First Kill." Sadly, Jaume Collet-Serra is not returning. Instead, "The Boy" filmmaker William Brent Bell is at the helm, and now THR is reporting that "Orphan: First Kill," which was financed by EOne and Dark Castle, has been picked up by Paramount (the first film was a Warner Bros. release). I immediately assumed this meant the film would be going straight to Paramount+ like the upcoming "Paranormal Activity" and "Pet Sematary" movies, but there's no mention of that – yet. THR also provides this synopsis:

First Kill centers on Leena, a murderous sociopath who looks like a child due to a medical condition. Following an escape from an Estonian psychiatric facility, Leena comes to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy Connecticut family. But Leena's new life as "Esther" comes with an unexpected wrinkle and pits her against a mother who will protect her family at any cost.

Isabelle Fuhrman, who played Esther/Leena in the first film, is back for the prequel (more on that in a moment). The cast also features Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Matthew Finlan, and Hiro Kanagawa. Dave Coggeshall wrote the script. There's no release date yet, so stay tuned. 

There's Something Wrong With Esther

Esther/Leena dies at the end of "Orphan," so a sequel would be out of the question – unless they turned her into a zombie. A prequel was certainly an option, but this prequel just happens to bring back Isabelle Fuhrman as the titular orphan. And that's a little weird, because Furhman was 12 when she shot "Orphan," and she's 24 now. A 12-year-old posing as an adult posing as a child is easy to see; a 24-year-old posing as an adult posing as a child is a little weirder and trickier. You might think that means that "Orphan: First Kill" will be digitally de-aging Furhman in some way, but by all accounts, that's not the case. 

"[T]hey didn't use CGI. The tricks that they did with the camera and different perspective tricks that they had, plus her costume and prosthetics and all that, she looks like a child," Julia Stiles said. "And her performance is stunning, because she embodies a child too in the way that she talks and the way she walks." 

Director William Brent Bell added: "[W]e use digital, we use CGI to help us ... but not to create her at all. It's all old school techniques: forced perspective, camera angles, where we put the light." Bell also said:

"That's a character that I love so much [and] I really want to be respectful to the audience who love that first film, and expand on who she is as a character. To be able to kind of understand her better. But at the same time have as much fun with her as we did in the first movie... and then some. And to have it be Isabelle again ... it's so cool."

Furhman herself also weighed in, saying: "['First Kill' is] definitely not what I think most people will expect, which I think is really exciting and what really drew me to even coming back to play that role," and adding: 

"And also, what I think is most exciting about it is it's something that's never been done cinematically. There's never been an adult actress who reprised a role she played as child. And that was exceptionally difficult and really fun to do, because when I was a kid and I played Esther, I was constantly playing a 33-year-old hiding herself as a kid while I was also 10, and this time, it was like, 'here's a little weight off my shoulders,' since I just have to pretend I'm 10, because I'm already an adult."

As a big fan of the first "Orphan," I'm very curious to see how this all turns out. That said, I'd be a lot more excited if Jaume Collet-Serra had returned to helm the prequel, as I'm not the biggest fan of William Brent Bell's work. Oh well! I'll still check this one out whenever it arrives.