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The Scariest Scenes In Orphan: First Kill Ranked

Released in 2009, "Orphan" is a psychological thriller about a married couple, Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard), who adopt a young girl to fill a hole in their family following a miscarriage. They bring home little Esther, who is harboring a very dark secret: she's actually an adult woman with a form of dwarfism that makes her look like a child. Uncovering the mystery of her origin becomes the basis of a terrifying domestic thriller.

In the prequel "Orphan: First Kill," there is no mystery. This is the story of how Esther (real name Leena) made it to America from Estonia, and the frightening story of what happened to the first family she lived with. Since fans are now fully aware of who Leena truly is, the film takes a more overt horror approach to its story. In each scene, we're waiting for Leena to lose it and end somebody's life, leading to some pretty intense and scary scenes.

Thanks to a surprise twist (which will be spoiled below), there's an added layer of suspense, making the second half of the film even more frightening than the first. Let's take a look at each of the most frightening scenes in "Orphan: First Kill" to highlight what exactly makes them so scary. Though we'll be comparing their relative merits, the scenes are listed in chronological order — because if a horror film doesn't raise the stakes from beginning to end, then what's the point?

Say hello to Leena

The film begins in Estonia, as an art therapist named Anna (Gwendolyn Collins) arrives at the Saarne Institute for her first day of work. The moment she steps into the almost gothic structure, she starts to feel uncomfortable (thanks to both a patient with a staring problem and a handsy security guard), but she makes her way through and meets with her new boss. As he explains the importance of following security protocol, an employee informs him that a patient named Leena is missing.

Alarms ring and red lights start flashing as Anna is told to stay in a classroom where she'll be safe. Nervous in the dim space, she starts to look around. We can hear the soft sound of a pencil on paper, and the camera reveals that Leena is the only other person in the room with her. The second she appears on screen, the audience is sure to be on high alert — anyone who's seen the original movie knows what kind of violence she's capable of. Anna introduces herself to what she thinks is the child of an employee, only to discover this is the dangerous Leena everyone's been worried about.

The lead-up to this moment is classic psychological thriller, like Clarice on her way to meet Hannibal Lecter. It builds up an expectation in the audience that we know must be paid off — the terrifying question is when.

Leena escapes

The movie doesn't hesitate to deliver on Leena's capacity for carnage. Minutes later, we see her sitting alone in her room when a prison guard delivers a package to her. She invites him in to thank him, and that's when the dread sets in. The guard clearly has a thing for Leena and she intends to exploit it. Bringing a chair over, she stands on it to meet his eye level, before caressing his face and chest. The moment his guard is down, she grabs his hair and batters the back of his head against the wall.

Even though we can see the moment coming a mile away, the intensity of it and the trail of gore following him as he slides down the wall is shocking. Leena then uses his keycard to make her way through the halls of the facility, making sure to duck and hide whenever she can. When she reaches the lobby, there's another security guard for her to contend with. Leena offers a candy-addicted patient a piece of candy in exchange for attacking the guard — which she does with ferocious speed.

This entire opening sequence demonstrates exactly how formidable an adversary Leena is, and is doubly suspenseful for fans who fear what she can do but can't wait to see what thrills the movie has in store.

Goodbye Anna

Anna quits her job because it's far too dangerous. She seems like a nice person who wants to help people, but the constant threat of violence has gotten to her already. She drives home in the heavy snow. Arriving at her apartment, she seems uncomfortable — the shock of the day has done a real number on her. As she approaches her front door, the trunk of her car opens.

Right away, the audience knows that Anna should just step inside, lock the door, and call the police. Of course, since this is a horror movie, Anna goes back to close the trunk. It seems like Leena might be in there, but there's no one to be seen. Relieved, Anna heads back to her front door (which she already unlocked and left ajar) to find Leena waiting for her inside. The escaped patient clobbers her with a wrench and uses her apartment to get cleaned up and research an identity to steal.

The glee with which Leena disposes of Anna is disturbing, as is the calm demeanor she adopts while plotting to feed on the grief of a family who have lost their child. Everything here builds Leena into a near-mythical villain and a classic slasher movie boogeyman. And just as a reminder of how bad she truly is, before leaving the apartment, she sees Anna is still alive and whacks her a few more times just to make sure she really got her.

The snooping detective

The movie offers a relief from the tension as Leena starts lying low, doing her best to blend into an American family who believes she is their missing daughter, Esther. The next big scare comes at the story's midpoint, when Detective Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa), who's been looking into Esther's disappearance, arrives at the Albright home while Tricia (Julia Stiles) and Allen (Rossif Sutherland) are out, and their son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan) is meant to be watching Esther (but he's just having a party).

Donnan asks to use the bathroom, but snoops around Esther's room looking for fingerprints. As he walks around her private space, we're naturally expecting her to walk in at any moment and confront him. Instead, he steals her record and leaves. When Leena notices the record has been stolen, she makes her way to the detective's house. As the audience has probably predicted, Donnan is close to figuring out that Esther isn't who she appears to be. As we also expect, Leena has no compunction about stabbing him in the back of the neck.

What sends this scene into terrifying overdrive, however, is the moment an unseen assailant shoots Detective Donnan in the chest several times before delivering a final kill shot. Leena didn't have a gun, so who could have done it?

The truth

The only person who seems genuinely excited by Esther's return was her father, Allen. Both Tricia and her son Gunnar have remained oddly suspicious and distant. At first, it appears that they're not ready to believe that Esther is truly back, but the scene after Detective Donnan's death reveals the truth Tricia has murdered the detective, because she and Gunnar have been keeping a horrific secret: they know that the real Esther is dead.

The specifics of her death aren't fully divulged, but we do learn that Gunnar (who has always been rotten) was a little too rough with his little sister and killed her. Instead of creating some kind of public scandal (the Albrights are an influential family in their community), they buried her and claimed she went missing. Everything about Tricia's behavior changes once the truth comes out. She isn't meek and doubtful anymore — she's confident, angry, and dripping with evil.

This twist is frightening because now we know that Leena isn't the only dangerous person in the movie, and the fact that she's willing to go to such extremes to avoid any unwanted attention is starling. Plus, her plan to allow Leena to continue living with them to keep her husband happy is equally messed up and just plain weird.

Party prepping

Tricia is so committed to making Leena the perfect version of her late daughter that she forces her to attend a party where friends of the family who know Esther will be there. If Leena doesn't comply, Tricia will send her back to Estonia where she will likely be locked up for the rest of her life. With no choice in the matter, Leena agrees to participate. She learns all sorts of details about Esther's life and relationships with the guests, and prepares to pretend to be an ideal daughter.

There's nothing too sinister on the surface of this scene, but the undercurrent of tension is deeply uncomfortable. Tricia is a woman so obsessed with appearing to be the head of a perfect family that she's willing to continue covering up her own daughter's death and to trap a complete stranger in her home, forcing her to do exactly as she says. That fixation on status and perception is truly frightening to consider — one might shudder to realize that people like this very much could (and very likely do) exist in the real world.

Gunnar's control

From the second we meet Gunnar, we can tell there's something off about him — the smirk, the hair, his air of superiority. This is a kid who thinks he's great, and isn't afraid to let the entire world know it. After learning the truth about Leena, we really see him lean into that menacing ruling class mentality. When the party is over, Leena heads up to her room to get changed. Gunnar follows her.

Leena tells him to get out of her room, but he reminds her it actually belongs to his dead sister. To Gunnar, it's important she understand that she will never be part of their family, and that he has absolute control over her. He takes such delight in rubbing his privilege in her face, it's enough to make your stomach turn. Leena smacks him, and when he threatens to kill her just like Esther if she does that again, she slaps him once more.

Their duel escalates, until she says if he reports her, he'll go down with her. If he calls the police, she'll rat him out for killing Esther. In response, he utters one of the most chilling lines in the movie: "This is America. People like me matter." Again, this is one of those moments that haunts you because you know people like this exist — people who think that because they're rich and influential, they can do anything they want.

The perfect breakfast

It doesn't take long for Leena to fight back against Tricia and Gunnar. After she realizes that Tricia has drugged her food, Leena decides to assert some of her own control. The following morning, Tricia and Allen wake up to find that their daughter has made them breakfast. Allen is thrilled, but Tricia is understandably hesitant. At first, Tricia thinks she's found a way out of eating the food prepared by Leena by saying she'll just have a smoothie. Well, her loving daughter already made her one.

This scene is boiling with tension, like something out of Hitchcock. Tricia knows Leena did something to her smoothie. Leena knows that she knows. And we know there's a power shift happening here, and the whole situation could blow up like a powder keg. The only thing is, we're not sure what Leena's plan is. When Tricia tries to dismiss drinking the smoothie, Allen casually urges her to drink it. The fact that he's completely oblivious to what's happening means Leena and Tricia have to act like everything's normal, and it escalates to hair-pulling tension as the audience waits for everything to pop off.

Tricia sips the smoothie and pours the rest out, revealing that Leena has submerged a dead rat in the drink. It's disgusting, but also kind of funny to see Tricia's reaction and watch her improvise a way to dispose of the carcass without her husband noticing.

Leena escapes again

Leena tries to kill Tricia and Gunnar by shoving them in front of a train, but is interrupted by a kind man passing by. The scene is thrilling, but it's nothing compared to what happens later. Fed up with pretending, Tricia tells Leena she's going to kill her. However, Leena manages to get her keys and steals her car. Of course, seeming to be a little girl driving a car, it's not long before a cop pulls Leena over and takes her home. When she arrives, Tricia and Gunnar grab her and take her into the bathroom. Tricia takes a small pair of scissors and explains that she's going kill Leena and make it look like suicide.

Obviously, we know Leena isn't going to die — this is a prequel. That's not what makes this scene so effective. What might get under your skin is how serious Tricia is. She isn't making an empty threat, and there's no hyperbole in her words. She intends to commit murder and shows no signs of being particularly bothered by it. At this point, she and her son have become so inhuman that you Leena getting rid of them would be a relief and a triumph. Of course, get rid of them is exactly she does. Gunnar's death scene is particularly gruesome, as he's shot with his own crossbow and eviscerated by with fencing foil. Again, his death isn't what's scary — it's the ferocity of Leena's actions that shocks us (even if he had it coming).

The final showdown

When Tricia sees what's happened to her son, she goes into full beast mode. She no longer cares if Leena's death looks like an accident — she just wants her dead, period. The two have an all-out brawl in the kitchen with them both getting thrown all over the place. They attack each other with knives, shatter dishes, and even start a fire.

In her attempt to get away, Leena climbs out a window and onto the roof. As the flames continue to grow, Tricia follows behind her with a knife (though she could probably just push her and be done with it). They crawl across the roof and slap each other, just as Allen is returning home in a cab. Seeing the fire, he asks the cab driver to call the police and rushes into the house to find his family.

When he reaches the roof, Leena and Tricia are dangling over the edge. This is definitely one of the tensest moments of the film — we know Leena's going to live, but how? Is she going to fall and somehow survive? Is the truth about Tricia going to come out? What about poor, oblivious Allen? Tricia falls to her death before Allen helps Leena up. That's when her false teeth come out, startling him so badly he also topples over the edge. The only survivor of this tragic "accident," Leena walks through the burning house that was never hers, on the way to freedom — and another family.

Who wouldn't adopt her?

Much like the ending of "Psycho," "Orphan: First Kill" closes with a shot of our murderer sitting alone. In Hitchcock's classic, Norman has become consumed by the identity of his mother. We hear his thoughts as he convinces himself that he has to appear innocent if he's going to remain free. So he sits there as calmly as can be. He doesn't even swat a fly, believing that anyone watching him will be convinced of his innocence.

In the final moments of "First Kill," Leena has adopted the Esther personality completely. Her therapist discusses her future with a colleague — she has contacted a reputable adoption agency and is sure that Esther will be okay. After all, who wouldn't adopt her? Well, we know perfectly well who's going to adopt her, because we've seen the original film. We know the kind of hell she's going to put that family through, the lives she will take, and her inevitable fate.

This last scene tops the list because it reminds us that although we've come to root for Leena, she's still a terrible, frightening person. She's still a murderer who will kill again, and we've just spent half the movie hoping she'd escape her captors as if she were the hero.