Warning: Spoilers ahead Orphan: First Kill
Whether you watched or not 2009 an orphan, there’s a good chance you already know how it ends. After 13 years, the horror movie’s shocking, if silly, twist is too good not to spoil: the titular orphan (played by Isabel Furman) is not the nine-year-old she seems. She’s a killer 33-year-old Estonian with a rare form of proportional dwarfism that has allowed her to pose as a little girl named Ester for years. That surprising final reveal is pretty hard to top. More Julia Stileswho plays in the backstory of this movie, Orphan: First Kill, now in theaters and available to stream on Paramount+, believes the new film’s twist is just as memorable as its predecessor’s.
“We’re in on Esther’s secret from the beginning, so we get to spend the movie watching her try to fool everyone,” Stiles tells TIME. “Having her meet someone who will surpass her is a very satisfying twist.”
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First kill takes place two years before the events of an orphan. It shows how Leena, a 31-year-old patient at the Saarne Institute, stole the identity of a missing Connecticut girl named Esther to become a murderous con artist who lusts after her adoptive fathers. (Now the 25-year-old Fuhrman is repeating her duel an orphan role with the help of some clever camera tricks.) Stiles plays Tricia Coleman, Esther’s real-life wealthy birth mother and Leena’s worst nightmare, who’s harboring a pretty big secret of her own. “To trick the audience, you want Tricia to just be this genuinely grieving, delicate woman at the beginning of the movie,” she says. “Then in the second half you realize she’s a really good liar.”
Isabel Furman in the new prequel
In the middle Orphan: First Kill, Tricia unexpectedly reveals how she knew Leena wasn’t her missing daughter: the real Esther is dead. The grade school girl was accidentally killed by her older brother. To protect her son, Tricia pretends to hope Esther will return, even though she knows she never will. But when she does, Tricia is reluctant to give up her newly reunited family – especially knowing how happy it’s made her husband Alan (Rossif Sutherland), who is none the wiser to her lies. (“The only thing worse than a dead child is one that’s gone,” Tricia explains.) That’s why she goes so far as to kill the investigator who discovers that Leena’s DNA doesn’t match Esther’s. With him, Leena can continue to play the role of an obedient daughter. “Trisha truly believes that everything she does is justified. That she’s protecting her family,” Stiles says. “That’s the scariest thing about her.”
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The other scary thing is how easily Tricia can go from a kind, caring mother to a full-on sociopath. Stiles created two different voices to differentiate between “before and after” Tricias. At the beginning of the film, Trisha sounds “more timid and breathless”, but her voice becomes “more powerful” after she reveals her true nature to Leena. Yet, more often than not, Tricia speaks in these sweet tones in hopes of convincing the world — and perhaps herself — that she’s that kinder, gentler person.
Stiles undoubtedly preferred to play the more sinister version of Tricia, who as the film progresses becomes something of a looser version of Henry Higgins in My lovely lady. After coming clean to Leena, she spends her time teaching the young woman how to dress and act like Esther to keep up the ruse. “I think they’re like two peas in a pod,” Stiles says of the fake mother-daughter sociopathic relationship. “I think in many ways Esther found the right family.”
To make sure Furman, who is 5-foot-6, would look like a kid on screen, Styles wore a pair of Jean Simmons boots, which she admits were “totally humiliating because they made me about seven inches taller , and I’m already tall.” (Stiles is 5-foot-8.) “They made me walk like a baby giraffe,” she says. “So not letting that distract you at all was the biggest acting challenge.”
The original an orphan claims Leena is the only survivor of a house fire she started. The death of the Albright family is what allows her to remain an orphan. But the truth is much more complicated. The fire is not a product of arson, but a casualty of the entire bloody fight between Leena and Trisha, which covers every inch of the house. They leave the kitchen burner on and the oven mitt ignites. The inferno quickly engulfs the entire home, forcing them outside onto the roof.
In the final moments of the film, Trisha and Leena are left hanging from the roof, hoping that Alan will save them. At this point, he still doesn’t know that Leena isn’t his real daughter, so when Tricia claims that Esther is an “old woman” who tricked them, he flinches, causing his wife to fall to her death. “I think at that point he realized what Trisha had done and all that it meant. He turns against her and decides to save Esther instead,” says Style. “This is the greatest tragedy.”
Alan chooses Esther because he believes he is saving his daughter, but he soon realizes that his wife, as crazy as it sounds, was telling the truth. When he squeezes Leena’s face, her false teeth pop out. He calls her a monster and she pushes him off the roof. His death makes her the sole survivor of the house fire, but her plan was not to be the last girl. As delusional as it sounds, she believed she had a chance to love happily ever after with Alan.
Knowing what we do with Leena’s past and future, it’s hard to think of her as the hero of this story. But Styles doesn’t mind if fans think Tricia is the real villain of the an orphan series. After all, she says, “the villain is the hero of his own story.”
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