Warning: There are spoilers ahead Orphaned by the First Kill
Whether or not you’ve watched 2009’s Orphan, there’s a good chance you already know how it ends. After 13 years, the horror film’s shocking, albeit silly twist is just too good not to be spoiled: The titular orphan (played by Isabelle Fuhrman) isn’t the nine-year-old she appears to be. She’s a murderous 33-year-old Estonian woman with a rare form of proportional dwarfism that has allowed her to pose as a little girl named Esther for years. This shocking final revelation is hard to beat. Yet Julia Stiles, who stars in that film’s prequel, First Kill: Orphan, now in theaters and available to stream on Paramount+, believes the new movie’s twist is just as memorable as its predecessor’s.
“We’re in on Esther’s secret from the very beginning so we get to spend the movie watching her try and trick everyone,” Stiles tells TIME. “To then have her meet somebody that’s going to one-up her is a very satisfying twist.”
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First KillThis event took place two years ago, just before the events in Orphan. This video shows Leena (a 31-year old patient at Saarne Institute) stealing Esther’s identity to become a murderous con artist. She lusts for her adopt fathers. Fuhrman (now 25 years old) retook her duel Orphan With the help of some creative camera tricks, Stiles was able to play this role. Stiles plays Tricia Coleman, the real Esther’s affluent birth mom and Leena’s worst nightmare, who is hiding a pretty big secret of her own. “In order to trick the audience you want Tricia to just be this genuinely grieving, delicate woman in the beginning of the movie,” she says. “Then in the second half you realize she’s a really good liar.”
Isabelle Fuhrman, the prequel
Through MidwayFirst Kill Orphan Tricia unexpectedly revealed how Leena was her missing daughter. The real Esther, however, is now dead. Her older brother killed the Grade Schooler accidentally. Tricia pretends Esther would return, even though she knows it will not. But when she does, Tricia isn’t willing to give up her newly reunited family—especially knowing how happy it has made her husband, Allen (Rossif Sutherland), who is none the wiser to her lies. (“The only thing worse than a dead child is one that’s gone missing,” Tricia explains.) It’s why she goes so far as to kill the investigator who discovers that Leena’s DNA doesn’t match Esther’s. Leena will be able to carry on her duties as the dutiful child now that he is gone. “Tricia really believes that everything she’s doing is justified. That she’s protecting her family,” Stiles says. “That’s the scariest thing about her.”
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Tricia’s vulnerability to becoming a complete sociopath is another scary fact. Stiles created two different voices to differentiate between the “before and after” Tricias. Early in the film, Tricia sounds “more skittish and breathy,” but her voice becomes “more powerful” once she reveals her true self to Leena. Still, more often than not, Tricia speaks in those dulcet tones in hopes of convincing the world—and maybe herself—that she is that kindler, gentler person.
Stiles confessed that he preferred to play the sinister Tricia. She, however, is transformed into something akin to a less sane Henry Higgins as the film progresses My Fair Lady. Leena eventually comes clean with her. She spends most of her time teaching Leena to look and act like Esther to maintain the illusion. “I think they’re like two peas in a pod,” Stiles says of the sociopathic bond between the fake mother and daughter. “I think, in many ways, Esther found the right family.”
To make sure Fuhrman, who is 5-foot-6, appeared child size on screen, Stiles wore a pair of “Gene Simmons boots” that she admits were “utterly humiliating because it made me about seven inches taller, and I’m already tall.” (Stiles is 5-foot-8.) “They kind of made me walk like a baby giraffe,” she says. “So to not let that at all be distracting was the biggest acting challenge.”
The original OrphanLeena claims she was the sole survivor from a fire at her home. It was the Albright family’s death that allowed Leena to be an orphan. However, the truth is more complicated. The fire isn’t the product of arson, but a casualty of Leena and Tricia’s all out bloody battle that covers every inch of the house. An oven mitt caught fire after they left the kitchen burner on. They are forced to leave the house on their roofs as the inferno rapidly engulfs all of it.
In the film’s final moments, Tricia and Leena are left hanging off the roof, hoping Allen will save them. At this point, he’s still entirely unaware that Leena is not his real daughter, so when Tricia claims Esther is “a grown woman” who tricked them, he flinches, causing his wife to fall to her death. “I think, in that moment, he realized what Tricia had done and all that that means. He turns on her and decides to save Esther instead,” Stile says. “That’s the ultimate tragedy.”
Allen picks Esther for the reason that he thinks he’s saving his daughter. However, he soon discovers that Esther was actually telling him the truth, and as wild as it sounded. When he squeezes Leena’s face, her fake teeth pop out. He labels her a monster, and she pushes his head off the roof. His death makes her the only survivor of the house fire, but it wasn’t her plan to become the final girl. She believed that Allen was the one she would love forever, despite how delusional it might sound.
Knowing what we do about Leena’s past and future, it’s hard to consider her the hero of this story. But Stiles doesn’t mind if fans think Tricia is the real villain of the Orphan series. After all, she says, “the villain is the hero of her own story.”
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