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ORPHAN: FIRST KILL: 3 STARS. “ghoulishly fun twist & some good creepy kid action.”

Thirteen years after creepy kid Esther was revealed to be a grown woman in the original thriller “Orphan,” she’s back in a prequel that sets up the events of the first film. Isabelle Fuhrman returns to play the crazed-killer orphan of the title, a thirty-something woman afflicted with a hormone disorder that stunted her physical growth. “She never grew older,” says her doctor, “at least on the outside.”

The action in “Orphan: First Kill,” begins at the Saarne Institute, an Estonian psychiatric hospital, home to a dangerous killer named Leena (Fuhrman). “Leena may look like a child but she is a grown woman.”

One murderous rampage later, she escapes, and, after some quick on-line research, finds a missing kid she resembles. Using the name Esther, she makes her way to Connecticut, and poses as the long-lost daughter of Allen (Rossif Sutherland) and Tricia Albright’s (Julia Stiles). She rocks a Wednesday Addams kind look, wearing old-fashioned ribbons in her hair to disguise the scars from the electric shock treatment at the hospital, and says she picked up her heavy accent after being kidnapped and taken to Russia.

Greeted warmly by Allen and Tricia, son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan) isn’t as overjoyed. “She has an accent now and dresses like Lizzie Borden,” he says when asked what Esther is like since her return.

So far, the movie echoes the original film, but then comes a twist that gives new meaning to the old saying about cleaning up after the kids.

“Orphan: First Kill” maintains the mix of camp and gore that made the first movie memorable. The thirty-year-old killer in the body of a child is an absurd premise, but it’s handled with the right amount of dark humor, style and bloody kills, and is campy good fun. Much of this has to do with the twist—which I can’t tell you about—but it also helps that Fuhrman, who last played this character when she was a preteen, is able to sell the idea of Esther as a child-woman.

Director William Brent Bell uses a number of tricks, like forced perspective and child actor doubles, to create the illusion that Esther is a teenager that creates a sense of continuity with the first film. Thirteen years is a long layover between movies, but the two films fit together snugly.

“Orphan: First Kill” may be the prequel nobody was waiting for, but after a slow start in the movie’s first half, it picks up and freshens up the story with a ghoulishly fun twist and some good creepy kid action.

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