Directed by: Michael Thelin
Written by: Harry Herbeck, Richard Raymond
Starring: Carly Adams, Chris Beetem, Dante Hoagland., Joshua Rush, Randi Langdon, Sarah Bolger, Susan Pourfar, Thomas Bair
One of the best things the horror genre can do is take the viewer from the comfort of their home, into a place where they do not wish to be. A situation that is hard to believe or you wish did not exist in this big bad world. When you the viewer are watching a film that makes you feel uncomfortable and dirty, then you know its doing its trick.
Horror classics like Halloween are films that I find brilliant but never reach me to the dark pit of evil that they should. It is why as I get older and wiser, its hard to come by a film that takes me to that edge, to a place that I want to grab the remote and simply knock off, or help those on screen who are crying for us to help. The horror genre is my favourite of all within film but I hardly ever get scared any more at what I watch. Endless sequels, remakes and found footage have watered down the scare factor over the years and while beauties like IT Follows and The Witch, show that Horror is not dead, they simply are films I can call “brilliant”, but not one that I end up braking out in cold sweat over.
A Serbian Film made me feel dirty when watched but it was the quite brilliant and underrated Funny Games that probably was one of the last films to have given me that feeling of guilt and despair. Even now when I watch, I just want to smack those two boys smug faces and help that poor family who are at their mercy.
Its those feelings that stirred throughout the running time of Emelie, a film that took me by surprise, but took a simple premise that strikes fear into anyone who has a child! How well do you trust your babysitter? Here its Emelie played by Sarah Bolger in a performance that should win her many of plaudits within the horror genre.
Adventures in Babysitting this is not, from the ominous tone and the witnessing of an abduction which is deeply upsetting, the film starts like it means to go on, building this fearsome tension that ripples through your body and watching eyes. We know evil is afoot, but when it comes in the shape of the one person you as a parent should trust, then its more unsettling.
The Thompson’s, parents with two young boys and a girl could be anyone of us. A normal family who are just living each day for each other whose Mum and Dad (Chris Beetem) and (Susan Pourfar) just want that one night out, away from the mundane roles they play each and every day. But when the Dad picks up Emelie, a young girl we already know is not “Anna” and leaves her in the care of their children as they go out and celebrate their anniversary, then any viewer with a child will feel a sudden ounce of despair, because what Emelie is planning is not something any child should suffer.
With the horror genre awash with gore and the need to shock with violence, amazingly Michael Thelin who is more well known for being a concert director, shows great skill and restrain in not going down that route. Instead he offers up what many bigger horror directors fail to realise, that the imagination of the viewer is more scary to what we witness on screen.
With the parents gone, Emelie starts her duty and at first the children lap up the attention as all “rules are out!”. Drinking and eating what they want, the sense of foreboding doom fills your lungs as you just wait for the intentions of this babysitter. Its not long when you get the first strike of fear in your heart, when a simple group photograph, followed by the line “Stop Smiling” makes you want to reach out and grab the kids to safety.
Its stunning that a scene like that can make you scared without the need of gore. What this film does so brilliantly is take the human nature of protecting children and playing it in front of you. Emelie does not need a Jigsaw set of tricks to damage these children or us the viewer, just a hamster and a snake, followed by a family film of porn will do all the damage it needs and more.
With astute directing and a eerie tone, this deeply dark thriller is carried remarkably throughout by the acting on screen with Bolger menacing and the three children fantastic, especially the young Christopher (Thomas Bair) who shows a dark side that is both frightening and surreal.
Unlike Funny Games though, which is flawless up until its downbeat and draining finale, Emelie falters in the last twenty minutes. Its like the writers needed to end this with some sort of resolution for those watching, like the golden rule of horror is, you can play menace with the kids, but don’t leave a bitter after-taste and its a disappointing as what this film required is that wonderful dark mean streak through out. Losing their nerve when it really mattered, loses the film of its vibe, but at least the journey up until that point is a master-class of how to build suspense and really deliver a babysitter from the pits of evil………..
Fellow HCF Critic David S. Smith saw and reviewed Emelie at Frightfest. Read his brilliant review here….