Movie Review: Orphan: First Kill

Look, I can sit here and analyse Nope and talk about The Green Knight and praise genuinely brilliant examples of cinematic filmmaking, but when it comes down to it, what I really, truly want is a silly horror movie packed full of stupid, soap operatic twists and insane performances to match.

Orphan: First Kill comes from William Brent Bell, the director of the No-But-Listen-legendary Brahms: The Boy II, which is an instant selling point for me. It’s hard to convey in the review I gave of it a few years ago, but Brahms has become a meme in the No But Listen household to an almost insane degree; Ralph Ineson’s be-jacketing, “his safety blanket, it’s literally…his safety blanket”, the twist at the end, all of it. It’s the perfect overlap of “extremely bad” and “extremely fun”, and it made Orphan: The Girl II or whatever, sequel to the 2008 video nasty Orphan, a no-brainer for us. There we were, opening night, ready to indulge in some camp.

And truly, honestly, actually: Orphan 2 is the platonic ideal of silly, camp horror. To get camp right, you’ve have to be willing to go all the way in, and so few movies really seem to understand what that means: a pure commitment to the bit, right down to the bare bones of the filmmaking process, and all the way up into the writing, performances, and direction. It takes a certain level of confidence and certainty to understand that camp isn’t an excuse for something done badly, a half-hearted assurance that we shouldn’t look too closely because it’s not that serious anyway: camp is a genre unto itself, and Orphan: First Kill is a joyous and dare I say brilliant example of just that.

Isabelle Furhman returns as the titular Orphan, a woman afflicted with an illness that keeps her looking like a young child, as she escapes from the detention centre she’s been kept in and takes up the mantle of a missing American child to ingratiate herself into the girl’s grieving family. Julia Stiles plays Tricia, wealthy socialite and mother to the missing girl and new parent to Furhman’s Lena, in what starts off a pretty bland role but swiftly turns into…well.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, so let me keep it at this: I heard audible gasps in the cinema when the big twist was revealed, and I saw at least one woman reach over to her partner and grab his arm like she had just witnessed a small church-recognized miracle. To call it salacious would be an understatement, but the movie only doubles, nay, triples down from there. It’s nasty to a relentlessly fun degree, gleefully mean-spirited as it pits Lena and Tricia against each other in a stand-off that defies anything close to reality, but also anything close to boring. Stiles and Furhman are both instantly iconic, throwing themselves deep into the full extent of the balls-to-the-wall insanity on display here, heading off as pseudo-incestuous love rivals and would-be murder victims (told you it was crazy).

There’s nothing half-hearted about Orphan: First Kill. In fact, it commands far more commitment than a prequel to a fifteen-year-old movie should, but in some ways, it makes perfect sense that only something this small-stakes could sneak such silliness under the radar. William Brent Bell has created probably one of the finest, stupidest, and most abjectly enjoyable pieces of camp cinema I’ve ever seen in First Kill, and I need everyone to go out and see it right now so I can get fifteen more.

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By Lou MacGregor

(header image via IGN)

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