Nope, Orphan, Orphan: First Kill, and The Creeping Flesh
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 185
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. This week, we'll take a look at BOTH of the "Orphan" films, the first one from 1009 as well as the new "Orphan: First Kill." We'll look at the new Jordan Peele film, "Nope" and watch a classic Cushing-Lee collaboration with "The Creeping Flesh" from way back in 1973.
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Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Alex Mace
StarsVera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman
Run Time: 2 Hours, 3 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Does adoption in movies ever have a happy ending? Not here, either. It’s probably not a spoiler knowing that going into this. Still, the child actress in the main role is amazing, and the supporting kids are good. The story unfolds nicely and overall it’s very well done.
Kate and John walk into the emergency room; she’s about to give birth. It looks really painful, and then there’s a_ bunch_ of blood. The doctors aren’t very nice about her dead baby inside her; John’s there with his video camera recording the removal. They pull out a mummified, screaming thing… And Kate wakes up. Yes, she lost her baby, but it wasn’t that bad. Still, it happened, and she’s got the scar to prove it. She’s still dealing with the grief and trauma.
She talks to Dr. Browning, her psychiatrist, about adopting. Kate already has a small daughter, Max, who is deaf, and a son, Daniel, who is just annoying. They go to St. Marian’s Home for Girls to adopt another one. John finds a girl named Esther who is really good at painting but doesn’t get along well with the other kids. Sister Abigail says that the family that brought Esther to America died in a fire. Three weeks later, Esther goes home with them.
Pretty much immediately, Daniel gets jealous of the attention Esther is getting on her first day. He and his friends go up in their treehouse and look at porno books.
Esther wears frilly, old-fashioned looking dresses, and she definitely stands out. “Little Bo Peep” comments are made at school. We see several examples that show us that Esther is a weird kid. For some reason, John and Kate decide to have sex in the kitchen one night, and Esther catches them in the act. Esther understands more about the act than she should at her age.
At the park, a neighbor woman flirts with John, but Esther only has eyes for Brenda, her nemesis from school. Max watches as Esther pushes Brenda off the big slide and breaks her leg. Later, Max lies to defend Esther. Daniel still doesn’t like Esther, and he makes that abundantly clear.
Kate starts teaching Esther to play the piano, but she already knows. There are lies, half-truths, and innuendo. Sister Abigail comes for a visit; she thinks there may be something wrong with Esther. She’s done more research, and accidental injuries seem to follow Esther around. The house fire that killed her previous family was an unsolved arson. Naturally, Esther is listening to all this. John takes Esther’s side, but Kate’s not so sure anymore.
Esther finds John’s pistol, locked in the gun safe. She and Max wait at the bridge; Esther says they’re going to “scare” Sister Abigail. The plan is to have Max wave the car down, but when the time comes Ester gives her a shove out into the road. Abigail swerves and spins out into the shoulder. When she gets out to check on Max, Esther whacks the old nun with a hammer. The two little girls pull her off the road and finish the job. Well, Esther does while Max watches horrified.
Daniel watches the two girls leaving his treehouse, and later that night, Esther puts a knife to his throat and swears him to secrecy. Kate takes Esther to Dr. Browning for an evaluation, and the doctor falls for everything Esther says. Kate gets a call, one of the nuns wants to know what happened to Abigail; she never came home yesterday. They soon find her car and the mutilated body.
Kate starts Googling “Children who kill.” John thinks Kate is losing her mind. Kate tries to find some history on Esther, but the orphanage she was in back in Russia doesn’t know anything about her. Esther doesn’t want to go to the dentist. John tells Esther to do something nice for Kate, but that goes really badly.
Later, Esther breaks her own arm in a vise and goes crying to John. It looks like Kate broke her arm in anger. Kate, a recovering alcoholic, buys two bottles of wine but then dumps the open onel in the sink. John finds the unopened bottle and assumes that Kate drank. Dr. Browning, the world’s worst psychiatrist, takes John and Esther’s side of the story.
Daniel and Max are both terrified of Esther, but they regularly cover for her out of fear. Max tells Daniel about the evidence stashed in the treehouse, but Esther overhears all. Esther drops all pretense of being normal when she reads Kate’s diary. Later, Kate reads Esther’s bible, from the Saarne Institute. Turns out, Saarne isn’t an orphanage, it’s a mental hospital.
Esther sets the treehouse and the evidence on fire– with Daniel inside. He jumps out, and before Esther can finish him off, Max intervenes. Daniel winds up in the hospital with internal injuries. Esther sneaks away and smothers Daniel in his hospital bed. The hospital people sedate Kate, so John takes Esther and Max home. Daniel may pull through after all.
That night, John drinks quite a bit while Esther cuts up one of Kate’s dresses. She looks like a ten-year-old Russian hooker as she comes onto John, kissing him all over. “You said you loved me!” she whines. He’s not that drunk, so he explains how he loves Kate. John finally realizes that Kate may have been right.
In the hospital, Kate gets a call from the Saarne Institute. The doctor tells her to get her family away from the little girl, who is really a grown woman. She has a rare hormone disorder with proportional dwarfism. She’s 33 years old. Kate leaves the hospital and rushes home in the snowstorm. She calls 911 and sends them to the house.
Meanwhile, Esther stabs John half a dozen times, and he’s not gonna recover from that. Max watches the whole thing and then hides. Kate arrives, but by this point, Esther has dad’s gun again. Esther, Kate, and Max play tag in the greenhouse. Kate ends up jumping through the roof and squashing Esther like a bug. They run off to the woods instead of the road for some reason as they hear the police coming.
The police do not find Esther’s body. Esther attacks Kate in the woods, and they crawl out onto the frozen pond. Ester has the upper hand with a knife. Max picks up the dropped gun and aims for Ester but shoots the ice. They both fall through the ice, and Esther stabs Kate. Kate kicks Esther in the face and she drowns under the ice… at least it looks that way.
Isabelle Fuhrman, the actress who played Esther, was actually only ten years old when this was made. She was really good here.
Kevin theorized early on that Esther was a full-grown woman in disguise, pretending to be a child. He was basically right, and one hint after another supported him.
It’s pretty long, and may have one or two plotlines that it didn’t need to have, but it was entertaining throughout.
Orphan: First Kill (2022)
Directed by William Brent Bell
Written by David Coggeshall, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Alex Mace
Stars Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a prequel to Orphan, but it’s vital that you see Orphan before seeing this movie; if you don't this will ruin it for you. That said, this one was quite good like the first movie was. Isabelle Fuhrman is twenty-three here, and they went to great effort to give the illusion she’s a pre-teen girl. She’s still excellent in the role, and the supporting cast is good, the script is entertaining. If you enjoyed the first one, you definitely should see this one as well.
Orphan: First Kill is now in theatres and on Digital and On Demand. Isabelle Fuhrman returns as Esther in this terrifying prequel to the original and shocking horror hit. Also starring Julia Stiles. Buy or Rent Orphan: First Kill and watch it today. Rated R. From Paramount Pictures.
In Estonia, 2007, at the Saarne Institute for the mentally insane, Ana, an art instructor, arrives for her first day. The orderly tells the doctor that Leena is not in her room. They set off the red alert and order lockdown; she’s their most dangerous patient. The doctor locks Ana into a safe room for protection. Except Anna finds a little girl hiding in the room with her. The girl says her name is Leena and when the doctor comes back in, they carry her away.
The doctor explains that Leena is no child; she’s a grown woman of age 31 with an unusual medical condition that has delayed her growth and aging. He warns to never trust her; she’s an accomplished con artist. The previous family that took her in all died. One of the security guards likes Leena and buys her a dress. She lures him into her cell, kills him, and escapes. Anna quits on the spot and later finds Leena in the trunk of her car. It goes poorly for Ana.
Leena does a Google search for missing children and finds one that resembles her; Esther Albright. She finds a policeman and tells her that she was kidnapped from America, and her name is Esther.
Back in America, Tricia and Allen Albright watch their son Gunnar at a fencing match. They talk about how Esther’s not coming back. Detective Donnan arrives, and Tricia thinks they found the body after four long years. Instead, they are called to Russia to pick up their long-lost daughter. Since it’s been so long, Tricia can’t tell that it’s not her real daughter. They fly back to America and meet the family. Nobody really asks about her Russian accent.
The next morning, they go to see Dr. Degar, a therapist with a parrot. Allen is an artist, and he shows Esther how he puts a “hidden layer” into his paintings. She draws him with charcoal, and we can see that she likes him.
Esther finds the diary of the real Esther hidden in the bed and hides her own in there too. She decides to rob the house and run away, but when she sees Allen painting, she changes her mind and goes back; she’s in love. Later, she watches from the shadows as Allen and Tricia have sex.
Allen and Tricia go to a big party, leaving Gunnar to watch over Esther. He then throws a party for his friends in the backyard. Esther wants to join the party, but he’s not cooperative. Detective Donnan stops by and searches Esther’s room, taking a vinyl record, probably to check for fingerprints. Esther watches and follows.
Tricia comes home and looks through Esther’s book that mentions the Saarne Institute. Elsewhere, Detective Donnan checks out Leena’s fingerprints that don’t match Esther’s, but before he can tell anyone else, he gets a surprise visit. Then he gets a second surprise visitor.
Esther ends up telling Tricia everything. Yes, everything. Turns out, Mommy’s a bit of a fixer-upper. Gunnar was always way too rough with his sister, and it went too far. Who’s crazier, mother or daughter?
Tricia wants to keep up the pretense with Esther for Allen’s sake; he’s much better since their lost daughter returned. When they get home, Tricia tells Gunnar everything too. The only one not in on the plot is Allen.
At therapy with Dr. Segar, Esther suddenly knows a lot more about the details of Esther’s young life, almost as if she’d been tutored. Segar says she’s mentally just fine now. Allen and Esther paint together quite often now, and Tricia starts getting jealous.
After an attempt to kill Tricia and Gunnar, Esther steals the car. She’s soon caught by the police and returned to her mother. Tricia and Gunnar grab Esther and get ready to make her “suicide” but she turns the tables and gets away. She quickly makes a bloody mess out of Gunnar.
Tricia and Esther wrestle, and the kitchen catches fire. They both climb up onto the roof of the huge house. Allen returns home and runs into the burning house to look for his family. Tricia falls to her death, but Allen pulls Esther up onto the roof. Allen finally figures out the truth, and Esther pushes him off the roof as well.
Esther gathers her stuff and walks out the front door as emergency vehicles arrive. Poor little girl. She’s probably going to be sent to an orphanage…
They go to great lengths to make the now-completely-grown-up Isabelle Fuhrman look like a child. She was ten years old for real in the first film, and twenty-three here. There are lots of shots of a little girl from behind, and what appears to be the actress standing or walking on her knees in others. It’s done as well as it can be, but if you’re looking for it, it’s really obvious– to the point of distraction.
The first half of the film is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, but eventually things turn on a dime. We had Gunnar pegged as Esther’s murderer fairly early, but there was a whole lot more that we didn’t guess.
In the previous movie, we are told that Esther’s family died in an unexplained arson fire. Literally none of these characters actually died in the fire. Gunnar probably burned up in the fire, but it also probably would have been obvious to a medical examiner how he actually died brutally and repeatedly stabbed. Allen and Tricia were clearly well outside the house when they died. Like the title says “First Kill”, there may have been another adopting family after this one that died in a fire. She’s just getting started here.
Short Film: Spare Body (2021)
Directed by Ethan Hunt
Written by Ethan Hunt
Stars Ethan Hunt
Run Time: 9:44
We see the print on the side of a box: “Delivery from SPARE, Second Lives Now Possible. Do not open until necessary.”
While searching for some extra money, a teenager discovers the shocking truth behind what his parents have been hiding and soon finds out about its beyond-sinister intentions.
Ethan Hunt wrote, directed, and starred in this, and it’s all well done. His camerawork, sound design, music, and visuals are all excellent. His acting could use some work, but it gets the job done. Great work!
The Creeping Flesh (1973)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Peter Spenceley, Jonathan Rumbold
Stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron
Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
There is creeping flesh here, but that’s about it as far as the monster goes. He gives us the finger, but then doesn’t show up until the end of the movie, where he wants it back.
A man paints a picture of a reptilian-humanoid-looking monster as the credits roll.
Doctor Emmanuel Hildern is interviewing a new assistant. He asks whether the doctor believes in evil as an entity, a disease that spreads over the whole world. He believes that evil can be cured like any other disease. The old doctor shows his notes to the new guy and explains that the story all began three years ago…
He had just returned from New Guinea, and he brought back a special skeleton that he thought would revolutionize the study of mankind’s evololution. He greets his daughter Penelope. Waterlow is there as well, ready to conclude his own final experiment. The workmen carry in a huge crate holding the special skeleton.
Emmanuel and Waterlow open the box and it's a big skeleton with a huge skull. Emmanuel explains that the large brain cavity indicates that this creature was smarter than we are. It’s older than the Neaderthal, but it’s more advanced; somehow, the beings vanished from the Earth.
Penelope says she had to let two of the servants go, since they’re out of money. Now they’re down to only two servants! Emmanuel thinks his latest discovery will turn that around.
Emmanuel opens a letter from his brother; his wife and Penelope’s mother, has passed away in his absence. We see the letter came from the insane asylum that his brother runs. Brother James mentions that Penelope has believed her mother to be dead for years. It turns out both brothers will be competing for the same scientific prize. Oh, and James has decided not to finance any more of Emmanuel’s lunatic expeditions. We’re told that one patient, Lenny, has escaped.
Emmanuel goes in to clean up the dirty old skeleton. He soon notices that where it gets wet, skin starts to regenerate. It’s flesh… and it’s creeping! Emmanuel cuts off the fully-regenerated finger and watches it wiggle on the table.
Back at the asylum, James goes into the cells to figure out how Lenny escaped. When one of the prisoners gets the upper hand on him, James shoots the man in the back several times. Lenny is still at large, and there’s a manhunt out in the woods.
Next morning, Waterlow goes into the lab and almost washes the skeleton before Emmanuel stops him. Penelope tricks Waterlow into leaving her the keys to the house, which includes her mother’s room, which has been declared off limits to her.
Emmanuel reads old legends about “The evil one,” and this skeleton may well be him. This skeleton wasn’t supposed to be exposed to rain for another 3,000 years. Somehow, he thinks this knowledge will abolish all evil. He takes some blood cells from the finger, and they’re still alive. He mixes some of his own blood in with it. It makes a protective skin around each of the cells. It looks like they have an inoculation against evil itself. He decides to inject the monkey with the creature’s blood to see what will happen.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Penelope explores her mother’s forbidden room and finds out that her mother was committed to an asylum; she has actually not been dead all these decades.
Emmanuel catches Penelope in her mother’s room, and she is not happy. We get a flashback to young Emmanuel and Madeleine. We soon see that Madeleine wasn’t insane; she was just a slut. Somehow, her promiscuity eventually did drive her insane (syphilis?). They dragged her out to the asylum, where she died just recently. Emmanuel fears that Penelope may follow in her footsteps, so he gives her the barely-tested anti-evil inoculation.
Crazy Lenny makes it to town and attacks people in the bar.
The next morning, the monkey broke out of his cage and died. Penelope is gone, and she now has hair like her mother. Emmanuel drives all over town looking for her, but she’s in the bar flirting with rich men. One man takes her upstairs and tries to take her dress off and more. She claws him, and the man leaves. She goes downstairs and dances like a madwoman. When a sailor gets carried away, she cuts his throat and runs off.
Penelope runs off from the bar with dozens of angry sailors in pursuit. She hides in a warehouse– the same warehouse where Lenny is also hiding. She pushes him off the ledge and into the crowd below. The police finally show up and capture Penelope. They take her to the asylum.
At the asylum, James complains that he can’t experiment on normal human beings, so his research into insanity isn’t progressing. James looks at Penelope’s blood, and realizes there’s something strange going on. James brings her home to Emmanuel’s house– in chains. James waits in Emmanuel’s lab and notices the creature’s blood is the same as Penelope’s. He reads the lab notes as well. He figures out exactly what’s been going on and demands to work with Emmanuel on his project. James threatens blackmail, so Emmanuel has few choices.
That night, James sends a goon to break in and steal the skeleton. Waterlow interrupts the robbery and is murdered. The man carries the skeleton out to James’s carriage, but he drags the hand through a puddle. Emmanuel notices that thunderstorms are approaching as well; he hops on a horse and pursues James.
The driver is awful, and the carriage tips over in the rain. It’s not long before the skeleton starts regenerating and moving. James runs to the asylum for assistance while Emmanuel finds the carriage and the creature. He runs home in a panic.
Penelope wakes up and kills the maid who has the keys. Meanwhile, the creature shuffles toward the house. Penelope unlocks the door and lets it inside. It appears to want its finger back, but Emmanuel burned it up. Emmanuel eventually opens the door and lets it into his room; it may have some form of mind control. It takes his middle finger to replace its own.
Outside, James picks up Penelope and then goes in to find Emmanuel crying over the mess he made.
Back in the present, Emmanuel tells the new doctor all this. Turns out, the new doctor is one of the workers at the asylum, which is where he’s been committed. He’s not really James’s brother, and the woman in the next cell isn’t really his daughter. “Hopeless case, I’m afraid,” James says on the way out. We see that Emmanuel is indeed missing a finger.
The stop-motion of the creeping flesh regrowing was pretty good for 1973. That amputated finger didn’t really look like a finger if you know what I mean.
Despite the majority of the cast and crew being former Hammer people, this was not a Hammer film. It’s got a pretty violent, although not explicit, rape scene, which was a bit much for the time.
James’s assistant says, “It all sounds like nonsense to me,” and he’s got a point. The science here is fantasy at best.
The little twist at the end isn’t a huge surprise, but it does make you rethink everything that went on.
It’s good, but not one of the era’s best.
Directed by Jordan Peele
Written by Jordan Peele
Stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea
Run Time: 2 Hours, 10 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a slow burn. It’s surreal. It’s unsettling and low-key horror. There are those who rave about Jordan Peele’s work, including this movie. It’s got cool effects, a story, and a strong cast.
The Horror Guys are of a split opinion. Kevin ended up not hating it, warming to it more as it went along, but would give it about a six. Brian thought much less of it.
At the TV station, something has gone wrong, and only the monkey is left alive.
At the horse ranch, OJ Haywood talks to his father Otis, Sr. Suddenly, stuff starts falling from the sky. Hail? Rocks? Otis gets hit by a falling thing, and OJ rushes him to the hospital. X-Rays show that Otis has a nickel embedded in his skull, and he dies. There’s a key and keychain stuck in the back of the horse. Credits roll.
Six months pass, and OJ is now horse wrangling for a Hollywood project. His sister Emerald, is way better with people than he is. She’s really into the Hollywood stuff, but OJ looks pretty unimpressed with everything. Things go badly, and they’re soon unemployed from their gig.
Next, they go to a western-themed theme park. They are there to sell Lucky the horse to Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park, a former child star. Emerald is more interested in talking about old movies and memorabilia rather than business. Ricky talks about working on the TV show “Gordy’s World” with a trained monkey. One of the chimps snapped and wrecked the show; it’s kind of a legend now. It was even a sketch on SNL.
Turns out, Ricky wants to buy their whole ranch. OJ wants to keep the ranch, but Emerald would prefer cash. They talk about old times and notice that one of their horses is out when it shouldn’t be. The horse runs off, and OJ goes looking for it. The power starts fluctuating, and OJ thinks he might have seen something in the sky; a UFO.
Emerald wants to get pictures of the UFO to sell to websites for cash. They go and buy some video equipment. Angel, the guy who comes out to install the cameras, is into UFOs, ancient aliens, and conspiracy stuff.
That night, OJ runs into something strange in the barn. He “Nopes” right out of there as the things crawl all around the barn in the dark. It turns out to be several kids in costumes and masks. (I paused the movie at this point, and when Kevin saw how much time was left in the film, he groaned out “Oh my God.” He wasn’t alone with that thought.)
A little later, things get strange again; There’s something in the clouds. We see that there is some kind of flying saucer up there. Angel shows up the next day; lhe was watching on their cameras last night. There’s a cloud that doesn’t move– ever. That cloud may have been there in that same spot for the past six months. OJ thinks it may not be a ship inside that cloud.
We flash back to the old Gordy TV show that went so badly. We don’t see much, but the ape goes berserk, just as we were told. Little Ricky hides under a table as Gordy beats his TV mother and father. Eventually, Gordy gets his head blown off.
Ricky Park gives a sparsely-attended show. He’s dressed like a cowboy and tells a story about seeing a flying saucer. He calls them “The Viewers.” Behind the show, one of the clouds starts getting frisky. We don’t see it, but they all do. Something abducts all the audience, Ricky, and the staff from the park, about forty people.
OJ comes to the park, but the place is completely deserted. He finds the horse he came for, but all the people are gone, even Ricky and his wife. He does see the flying saucer, as it lands right in front of him. OJ calls Emerald and Angel and says “It ate them all! It’s territorial, and it thinks this is its home!”
The thing stops above the farmhouse. Emerald and Angel hear screams coming from above. Junk and blood starts falling from the sky. OJ parks his car directly under it and listens to the sounds it makes. He picks up everyone and they go to Angel’s house.
Antlers Holst, the famous director, shows up to film the whole thing. He wants to use a horse as bait to get the sky creature to come after it. They have to hurry; 40 people disappearing tends to attract investigators. OJ thinks the thing can be “wrangled” just like a horse.
A blogger rides in on a motorcycle, he goes right into the trap; he’s way better bait than what they had. He gets knocked off his bike, and OJ tries to save him. The thing swoops down and gets the motorcycle guy. OJ realizes that if he doesn’t look at the thing, it won’t pay attention to him either. The saucer chases OJ, but he gets away.
Holst goes out alone to get his impossible shot, knowing full well that the thing is going to eat him. It does; it sucks him right up, and it almost gets Angel too. Emerald runs away, but OJ stays behind to get a good look at it and maybe tame the thing. Emerald releases a giant inflatable balloon and finally gets a good photo as the alien eats the balloon. It binds up the creature’s digestion, the big balloon pops, killing the alien.
First half hour: Boring pretentious stuff that Hollywood people just eat up and the rest of us kinda tolerate.
Second half hour: Same thing only with a couple of hazy saucers in the clouds between boring crap.
Third half hour: Interesting stuff starts to happen, but we actually get to see very little of it.
Fourth half hour: Stuff happens, but I was too sleepy to get excited.
OK, so the flying saucer is alive, not a spaceship. It eats people and poops out jewelry and trinkets that it can’t digest. The creature design toward the end was pretty unique, but for most of the film, it just looks like a flying saucer.
Overall, I found it incredibly boring. Do I regret watching it? Nope– I mean, yes, yes I do.
Kevin pipes in and says he ended up finding it interesting and watchable, more so as it went along and we figured out what was going on. He liked it more than disliked it. He’s still baffled over the gushing adoration that Jordan Peele gets for his directing work though.
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