It was the year 2007. Anika, a young woman who went missing and was a witness to a case of child abuse in the Czech Republic, was sought after. She was hiding in an orphanage and using the alias Adam. Even more intriguing, it turns out that she was actually a 33-year-old woman named Barbora Skrlova who posed as a kid to obtain an unofficial adoption from two Mauerova sisters, Klara and Katherina.
This description might seem familiar. You are totally correct if the movie “Orphan” came to mind. The movie Orphan is based on the life of Barbora Skrlova, who had hypopituitarism, multiple identity disorder, and other psychotic, aggressive, and schizophrenic tendencies. She posed as a 14-year-old boy to deceive people and defraud authorities. Let us examine Esther, the Barbora-inspired heroine, after that terrifying thought.
Esther Evil Origin Explored
Starting with the prequel, Orphan: First Kill, we shall delve deeply into Esther’s history. The book Orphan: First Kill explains how Esther got to be Esther. We begin at an asylum for the mentally ill in Estonia to get things going. As a new hire, a young arts expression therapy instructor shows up at the Saarne Institute’s door to assist the facility’s patients.
Chaos starts to spread as soon as she enters. Leena, the asylum’s most violent and dangerous patient, vanishes. Everything goes into lockdown, and Anna, the art therapist, is kept secure within a room. She discovers a young girl painting wonderfully inside the space.
We will delve extensively into Esther’s past beginning with the prologue, Orphan: First Kill. How Esther came to be Esther is explained in the novel Orphan: First Kill. To get things started, we start at an asylum for mentally ill people in Estonia. A young arts expression therapy instructor who has just started working there arrives at the Saarne Institute to help the patients there.
As soon as she walks in, chaos breaks out. The most threatening and aggressive inmate at the asylum, Leena, disappears. Lockdown is implemented, and Anna, the art therapist, is kept safe inside a room. She finds a young girl inside who is skillfully painting.
She snuck out of the asylum using his access key, where she saw Anna in her car. After seeing Leena, Anna left her work right away (who had now disappeared from the scene). Leena emerges from the car’s trunk when Anna arrives home and enters secretly before killing Anna there.
At the house, Leena uses the internet to find profiles of missing girls. Yes, that is right, her plan was to use what Anna said about looking like a child and using that to her advantage to hide under the radar. She found her perfect match in Esther Albright. She disguised herself as a child, went to a police officer, and claimed that she was Esther, a lost girl from the United States.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, Allen Albright and his wife Tricia had pretty much accepted the fact that their daughter had gone missing and was probably lost forever. In this dark moment, a light shines through as they hear that their missing daughter has been found in the American embassy in Moscow by Inspector Donnovan.
So, Tricia goes to Moscow and picks her up. When they are on the flight back home, Tricia tries to talk to Esther and shows her pictures of the family. But Esther, who is obviously not Esther, doesn’t remember that her grandmother is dead. Leena goes to the airplane washroom and beats herself over it because she needs to play the ruse perfectly in order to blend in and avoid going back to the asylum.
When the two reach the U.S, Allen is overjoyed. Everything inside of him shifts, and he goes back to being a sweet, caring, and passionate man. Ever since his daughter’s disappearance, he had become a shell of a man and had even stopped doing the thing he loved the most – painting. Coincidentally, it was also his profession; so, Esther’s return really helped in that aspect too. Leena, now pretending to be Esther, doesn’t hide her love for art even though the real Esther did not share her father’s love for it. This leads to Leena spending more time with Allen, and she then starts to develop feelings for him.
Meanwhile, everyone knows that something is off about the newly returned Esther. She has an accent and the psychologist that Esther used to go to starts to pick up on those little details that were new and different. Side by side, Inspector Donnovan also has his doubts about the little girl. He privately keeps tabs on her to see whether she is the real Esther or not.
One day, Tricia and Allen go to attend a charity event for pancreatic cancer, while Esther’s older brother, Gunnar, is having a party with his friends at his house, when Donnovan drops by. He informs the youngster that he can smell the weed from outside, but the two decide to have a deal where Gunnar tells his parents that Donnovan dropped by, and Donnovan doesn’t report Gunnar for the weed.
Under the guise of using the restroom, Donnovan goes around snooping in the house. He goes to Leena’s room and finds fingerprints on the record inside her record player in her room. He takes the record and leaves the house to investigate further.
Leena, or as she is more popularly known, Esther, gets to know this and goes to Donnovan’s house to, well, take care of him. During that time, Tricia and Allen return to the house. Tricia finds Esther missing and the shower running. So, she also does a bit of snooping and finds the little bible that Esther hides all the time. Inside the bible, she finds pictures of Allen with Tricia’s face cut out or drawn over.
Back at Donnovan’s house, Esther sneaks and breaks into his house just as he runs the prints he found off the record disk. He realizes that the two Esthers are different since their prints don’t match, when Esther decides to make her move and stab him in the neck multiple times. Donnovan struggles to stay alive and grapples to reach his gun, when Tricia shows up. She shoots Donnovan multiple times and effectively kills him, claiming that this is all she does now, clean up after her children’s messes. Then, she confronts the fake Esther.
She finds out that Esther is actually a grown woman of 30 years with a rare genetic condition called hypopituitarism, which is a condition in which one has proportional dwarfism. So yeah, she looks like a child even though she is 30. Funnily enough, the actress who plays Esther was 23 when she was doing the role. Since she was supposed to be a child, many cast members wore platforms to be able to show her as a small child.
Somehow, Tricia takes all of it really well. This is where the second plot twist comes. Apparently, Gunnar had killed Esther four years back, in 2003, in an altercation between the siblings. Tricia had covered it up by saying that she had gone missing. Messed up, right?
The two then team up and hide Donnovan’s body in a cellar after sending an email to the police station that he is going on vacation. For all we know, poor real Esther’s body was also in the same cellar.
Back at the house, Tricia starts prepping Leena to actually become Esther, because she knows how important Esther is to Allen. She helps her bind her chest and tells her all the trips and memories that the family shared in order to stop the child psychologist from suspecting her as an imposter.
As time passes, Leena and Allen spend a lot of time together in the art studio and get really close. Tricia watches all of this from a distance, but her jealousy starts showing, since she knows that Esther is not actually a child but a grown woman who is trying to seduce her husband. So, eventually, she tries to poison Esther’s food, but the plan doesn’t work, as Leena feeds it to a rat that dies, making her realize what Tricia had done. In retaliation, Esther puts a dead rat in Tricia’s smoothie.
The next day, Allen asks Esther to come to an art gallery in the city to showcase his work, but Tricia intervenes by saying that she has plans with Esther. Esther tries to kill Tricia and Gunnar at the train station when they are dropping Allen off, but she fails as she bumps into another passenger.
This event only fuels Tricia’s rage, and she decides to kill the imposter once and for all. Since Allen is out of the picture, for now, Leena steals Tricia’s car and tries to escape. However, Tricia calls the cops on her and gets her back to the house, where she is more than ready to finish Leena off. Unfortunately, the cops also tell Allen, who decides to come back and be with Esther instead of going to the gallery. Yeah, a major hindrance in the murder plan.
But they still try. Tricia gets Gunnar to try and kill Esther, but she stabs him with his fencing sword multiple times in the chest and kills him. This puts Tricia in a frenzy, making her desperate to hurt Esther. The two end up fighting it out in the kitchen and harm each other multiple times. In the background, without any of them realizing it, the gas flame starts to increase and burn the house. The two battle it out on the roof.
During the fight, both of them fall and barely hold on to the railing for dear life, when Allen shows up at the burning house. He tries to save both of them, but Tricia slips and falls to her death. However, he manages to save Esther. Once he saves her, he squishes her cheeks, leading to Esther’s fake teeth coming off.
He is absolutely horrified and calls her a monster. Instead, she tells him that she loves him and does all of this for him. Unfortunately for her, the romance is lost on him. In the ensuing struggle, Allen also falls off the roof and dies, while Esther leaves the burning house. She is then put in an orphanage and awaits a new family to dig her claws into.
There’s always been something wrong with Esther
This brings us to the second part of the story. This is the story of her new victims – the Colemans. The next part of Esther’s journey is also similar to that of Barbora Skrlova. Barbora had disguised herself as a 14-year-old boy after there was a hunt for her. She dressed up as Adam and went into the orphanage system. She hid under the radar for many months before being caught and tried for the child abuse case.
Esther was also put in an orphanage called St. Mariana’s Home for Girls. Meanwhile, the scene was being set up for Esther’s entrance. John and Kate Coleman were about to have their third kid, who was unfortunately stillborn. The death of their child shook them, especially Kate. She was grappling with her childlessness, which prompted the couple to consider adoption.
They went to St. Mariana’s Home for Girls, and lo and behold! In an obscure corner of the house, John found Esther painting away. The two of them build up a rapport and John is absolutely taken by her. Kate and John finally decided to adopt her, because she seemed like a good fit for them. They take her home to their deaf and mute 5-year-old daughter Max and their 12-year-old son Daniel.
Max is really happy to have a sister and embraces this new change, while Daniel is filled with jealousy. He feels like his father is no longer paying any attention to him, and it doesn’t help that the kids at school think that Esther is a freak. But Max absolutely adores Esther, especially since Esther makes the effort to learn sign language to communicate with Max, unlike Daniel.
Meanwhile, Esther is back with her evil ways. She gets bullied by a little girl in school, who tries to open the ribbon she wears around her neck, which only leads to chaos. Esther screams at the girl in the corridors, but on the inside, she starts plotting. She finds the girl at the park one day and pushes her off the slide so hard that the little girl breaks a bone. She is blamed for it, but sweet little Max, who saw it happen, covers for her. Kate tells Sister Abigail about Esther’s unusual behavior on call, which Max translates and tells Esther via sign language.
Sister Abigail comes to the Coleman household to talk to Kate and John, because she has started having doubts about Esther after hearing about the little girl’s accident. Sister Abigail tells Kate and John that bad and unusual things keep happening around Esther. Kate, who was already questioning Esther’s behavior, starts getting further convinced that there is something wrong with the girl. On the other hand, John feels like Esther can do no wrong. According to him, she is an angel child.
Meanwhile, Esther had been hearing this conversation from the other room. So, she goes outside with Max, claiming that if they don’t do this, Esther will be taken away from Max. The thought of losing yet another sibling scares Max, so she does what Esther wants her to do. Unfortunately, what Esther wants to do is evil. She pushes Max in front of Sister Abigail’s car, making her swerve and crash into a tree.
But Sister Abigail is still alive. She comes and checks up on Max, who is crying when Esther comes up behind her and hits the nun in the face with a hammer. Esther kills Sister Abigail and forces Max to come with her and hide the body in Daniel’s treehouse. This is the point where Max starts to realize that there is something wrong with Esther. Daniel had also seen the two at the treehouse. Later, Esther confronted him and asked him about what he saw at the treehouse. She then proceeds to threaten him by saying that she will castrate him if he said anything to his parents.
Kate voices her concerns about Esther to John, but he thinks she is just paranoid. Instead of believing his wife or acknowledging her feelings, he tells Esther to do something nice for Kate as a way to soothe Kate’s nerves. So, Esther gives her flowers, which is sweet, except she pulls the flowers from Jessica’s grave to give them to Kate. It is quite unhinged, since Jessica is the child that Kate and John lost.
Kate is mortified and claims that Esther did it on purpose. Kate grabs Esther’s arm out of anger, which then Esther uses as a way to manipulate John. Esther, in her manipulation, fractures her own arm and blames Kate for it, which causes a deeper rift in Kate and John’s relationship.
The next morning, Esther decides to be evil once again. While Max is inside the car, Esther releases the brake, which sends it straight into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, nothing happens to Max, except maybe severe psychological damage.
Esther keeps causing more rifts in the house because, by this time, she has a thing for John. She wants him, and she wants him bad. So, she manipulates John and shows him wine bottles that Kate had kept in the kitchen, implying that Kate, who is a former alcoholic, has started drinking again. This obviously causes more issues and Kate’s therapist feels like she should be put back in rehab. John threatens to leave her and take the kids with him if, she doesn’t comply. But Kate is not to be underestimated either. She has been doing her research in the background. She found out that Esther came from an Estonian mental hospital, but the orphanage didn’t have any records.
Now, a scared Max has decided to confide in her brother. She tells him about Sister Abigail’s death, and he stupidly decides to take on Esther on his own. He goes to search for the treehouse and pays for it. Esther sets the treehouse on fire and tries to kill him, but Max intervenes and stops it from happening.
Daniel gets severely injured and ends up at the hospital. Esther tries to kill him again when he is in the ICU by smothering him with a pillow, but the doctors save him. Kate believes that it is all Esther’s doing and slaps her. But again, this doesn’t do her any good because she is then restrained and sedated.
Later that night, we see Esther cut up one of Kate’s provocative dresses so that it fits her better and goes to seduce John. She puts on red lipstick and eyeliner as well. John is taken aback when he sees her, because, for him, Esther is a child. She comes onto him and tries to kiss him, but he doesn’t reciprocate. He tells her to go to her room and that they will go back to the orphanage the next day. This only angers Esther, who goes to her room and pretty much destroys it.
Meanwhile, Kate gets a call from Dr. Varava from Saarne Institute. He tells her that Esther is actually Leena, a 33-year-old woman who has hypopituitarism and used to be admitted to the Institute. She was a very violent and psychotic patient, who used to be kept in a straitjacket due to her actions. He tells her that she is said to have killed at least seven people. We can only assume that those seven don’t include the first adopted family that she murdered. Kate runs to reach her family and save them.
Back at the house, Leena has finally gone psychotic. She removes her ribbons and goes into murder mode. She cuts off the power supply in the house and stabs John. Poor Max also sees John’s dead body, but she thankfully hides in a safe place before Leena can get to her. By this time, Kate also shows up. Leena shoots Kate in the arm, but Kate manages to escape out the bathroom window. Leena almost gets to Max in the greenhouse, but Kate literally falls from the roof and knocks Leena out. The ensuing scenes are full of panic, because all one can think about is that Kate and Max should be okay, but they keep coming very close to not being okay.
Kate grabs Max and makes a run for it just as the police vehicles start to show up at the house. However, they end up at the frozen lake. Leena keeps trying to stab Kate, so Max picks up the gun Leena dropped and shoots at the lake. The ice shatters, and both Kate and Leena end up going underwater. Kate ultimately gets out of the sinkhole when Leena grabs her leg and says please save me, mommy.
You see the height of her manipulativeness in a clever shot here. While she is calling Kate her mommy and asking Kate to save her, she is also hiding a knife behind her back so that she can stab and kill Kate the moment she gets out. But like I said, Kate is not to be underestimated either. She screams at Leena, saying, “I’m not your Mommy,” and kicks her in the face. Leena probably breaks her neck at this point because she then drowns in the pond while the police rescue Kate and Max.
This was the story of Esther, or, originally, Leena. She is by far one of the most manipulative and manic characters I have seen in thriller movies. What I love the most about this character is how beautifully it was created. There is an uneasiness about her throughout the film that makes you uncomfortable. It is refreshing to see a character as unhinged as her, who not only manages to manipulate people but also gets away with it. The fact that it is based on a true story only makes it more interesting. Did you know the movie was based on a true story? What did you think about Esther? Let us know in the comments below!