The film Orphan (2009) was immensely popularity among horror fans after its release due to its shocking twist ending. The movie grossed a whopping $78.8 million, nearly tripling their $20 million budget. With such a unique storyline to work with, the prequel Orphan: First Kill (2022) was finally released over a decade later. Now, director William Brent Bell has opened up about his plans to release a third installment in the Orphan franchise. (And we won’t have to wait 13 years for it.)
We’re developing a third one now. The franchise’s rulebook has been opened up to where anything is possible… And knowing where we are in the process already, I’m extremely excited about the twists and turns that we have in store.William Brent Bell to The Hollywood Reporter
What happened in ‘Orphan’ and ‘Orphan: First Kill’?
What’s going on with the Coleman family? Is the mom really an alcoholic who is incapable of treating her new adoptive daughter like her own child? Why won’t Esther remove the ribbons she’s always seen wearing? At first, it seems Esther is a bright young girl who’s well-behaved, an incredible artist, and has unbelievable talent playing piano. Once the creepiness starts ramping up, you may think it’s another typical child-killer movie. However, there’s an unbelievable twist that nobody saw coming.
(Full spoilers for the first two films ahead.)
Orphan is a psychological horror movie that follows a couple, Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) Coleman, who are excited to adopt a 9-year-old Russian girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), from an orphanage. After struggling with the loss of a stillbirth, the two are initially excited to introduce Esther to their daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer), and son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett). However, as time passes, Kate’s suspicion about her new daughter grows. Esther exhibits odd and sometimes violent behavior and also seems to know way more about sex than the average 9-year-old. It soon becomes clear that Esther is attempting to get rid of Kate, even going so far as to physically injure herself so she can blame her adoptive mother for the abuse. The reason for the behavior is revealed with the twist ending: Esther is actually a 33-year-old Estonian woman named Leena Klammer, who has a homicidal past. She used her hypopituitarism, a rare disorder that caused proportional dwarfism, to trick others into believing she was a child, murdering at least seven people. Luckily, after a few near-death battles with Leena, the family survives, and it appears Leena dies as she drifts to the bottom of the lake.
Besides a brief glimpse into her psychiatric history, we don’t know much about Leena in the first film. Thus, the prequel Orphan: First Kill was born. Bell took a gamble casting Fuhrman in the prequel, as casting a woman in her 20s to play a 9-year-old child would be hard to pull off. They experimented with a few solutions, initially signing Fuhrman on as a consultant. After struggling to find a replacement, they even toyed with the idea of using CGA to put the actress’s face on a little girl.
It was actually [director William Brent Bell] who put his foot down and was like, ‘I’m only doing it if Isabelle is Esther’… He forced the studio to do a camera test with me where I was standing on my knees and they put my hair in pigtails.Isabelle Fuhrman interview with Variety
The story in Orphan: First Kill is set in January 2007, two years before the events that take place in Orphan. Leena plans her escape from the Saarne Institute after seducing and killing a guard. She breaks into the house of an art therapist named Anna. After killing her, she searches for missing American girls, discovering she bears a striking resemblance to a girl named Esther Albright. She eventually tricks the family of Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Rossif Sutherland) Albright into believing she is their missing daughter. The twist in First Kill is that Tricia knew Leena wasn’t her daughter because the real Esther was never missing – she had secretly died at the hands of her older brother. The film ends with Leena moving into an orphanage, awaiting a new family to adopt her.
What do we know about ‘Orphan 3’?
Currently, there hasn’t been an official announcement of what’s to come or when it will be released. There’s speculation that Leena didn’t actually die in Orphan, and the third movie will take place after her experience with the Colemans.
It’s hard to imagine anyone besides Isabelle Fuhrman playing the role of Esther. Although it isn’t certain, given the adoration the crew has for Fuhrman playing Leena, there’s a good chance we will see the actress in Orphan 3. She also shared with Variety she “would love” to do a third film. “If the script is good, and people love this one, why not?”
With what we know about the first two films, we can assume the third movie will be just as thrilling. Now, we can only wait to see what other twisted schemes Esther has up her sleeve.