This article contains full spoilers for the film Orphan.
Hot on the heels of the surprise return of Brahms for The Boy II (with which this will share a director), comes an even more unexpected comeback. The scary “little girl” Esther, in a prequel to 2009 hit Orphan. In a sense, I’m glad, since it was among my favourite horrors of its decade, offering a novel take on the creepy-kid sub-genre, with an intriguing mystery at its core. It was also well paced, with expertly done escalation, and had a wicked but enjoyable sense of humour. Importantly, it also pocketed a cool 80 million on a 20 million budget. Still, after a moment’s thought about it, I’m more skeptical.
The original seemed simple enough. It followed a family t grieving the loss of their third child, who adopted a cute, but very serious, Eastern European kid named Esther. Who turned out to be a little horror, intent on breaking her new parents up and killing her siblings. For the first two acts, it was enjoyable, if a little pedestrian. Then, in a rather excellent reveal, it turned out she wasn’t a child at all but Leena Klammer: a very dangerous woman, with a hormonal disorder that stunted her growth. And her big plan was getting mum out the picture to hook up with dad. It was a stellar, and downright creepy, concept that was supposedly devised by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio (who also produced). Moreover, Isabelle Fuhrman, playing Esther, was a revelation, delivering a performance that was both charismatic and extremely unnerving.
Yet because, like most mysteries, much of its running time was about uncovering the backing story then I don’t think it is a film that will lend itself to a franchise. As per The Boy, I’m not sure how much scope there is for a prequel when everyone knows what the twist is. Particularly given we know the titular character can’t die since it’s playing out the events we heard about the first time around. The blurb is also more than a bit familiar, with the story charting Lena’s escape from a Russian psychiatric facility. Afterwards, she heads to America, by impersonating the missing daughter of a rich family. This plan then hits a roadblock, as she clashes with a protective mother in a battle of wits.
Unsurprisingly, the original director Jaume Collet-won’t be coming back. Heck, even if they wanted to, they have their hands full with Disney’s Jungle Cruise and other bigger projects. Still, William Brent Bell may be a good choice as director. Not just because he’s done one weird revival, but because the stylish Gothic approach of The Boy could suit its world. Let’s hope writer David Coggeshall (Prey, and the terribly named but alright The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia) has a good vision for it. Presumably Isabelle Fuhrman won’t return either. Ironically, given the subject matter, I doubt she could pass as that age any longer.
Production is due to begin in late 2020, and will be handled by eOne and Dark Castle Entertainment.