Eli (2019) – Out now – Netflix Exclusive

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Eli (Charlie Shotwell) is the 11 year old, titular character, who has a condition which sees him living in a literal bubble. Unable to go outside from a very you age because of this condition, his parents scrape together all their money in hope of a specialist surgeons pioneering treatment being able to cure him. The movie opens as the family are midway to the medical facility, staying in a motel, and it fumbles its way through some of the plot points and the family dynamic. When they get to the isolated facility, in all of its badly CGI’d glory, it’s ominously shrouded in mist. The facility is an old mansion, fitted out to suit the patients with Eli’s condition, and after a little reluctance, Eli removes his protective clothing an embraces the freedom and movement this temporary new home provides. Although from here, it’s really not long before Eli spots a spooky figure down the end of a long, off limits corridor, and from there things start to get creepy. As Eli’s treatment starts, the paranormal activity ramps up a notch and Eli starts to think his new home is haunted.

The child actors are very good here, and much like Stranger Things and the recent iteration of It, it adds to the tension and peril on screen. Speaking of Stranger Things, Eli soon makes friends with the girl who lives down the road, Haley (Sadie Sink – better known as the aforementioned TV shows’ Max Mayfield). She shows up out of the blue, giving Eli a good fright in the process. She appears here and there, and they confide in each other through a conservatory. Her presence and motives seem unusual, but she’s the only person the Eli feels he can talk about what he’s going through. You’ll be questioning whether her appearance is real or not, due to the colourful aura surrounding her, whereas everything else seems grey and drab. As Eli delves deeper into what’s haunting him, things take a sinister turn, and he’s not sure who he can actually trust anymore, but he’s trapped in this house with some creepy ghosts and adults who may not have his best interests at heart.

Whilst Eli may not come across as the most expertly crafted horror, as a lot of the scares seem to fall flat, the spooks are actually done really well, in a weird blend of Deadly Premonition and Annabelle, and some of the ghostly encounters build up pretty well. The real meat however, is in the final third, where the motives come to light and a final confrontation takes place. The build up is great, keeping you in the dark as to whether the doctors are helping Eli or not and the parents also seem to be keeping things to themselves. However, to say the foreshadowing in this film is somewhat heavy handed, is a gross understatement. The colours, the imagery and some of the characters’ interactions may as well have a massive neon sign above them spelling it out. That being said, it’s a fun ghost story, with some of the introductions to the supernatural elements of the film being very well executed, despite them ending with more of a fizzle rather than a fright. It ends with an exciting finale, which thematically, you’ll probably see coming a mile away, but the way it plays out is superb, ending on a morally ambiguous, if somewhat triumphant note.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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