I don’t enjoy writing bad reviews. I’m fully aware that this is someone else’s hard work and that I’ve yet to make a film myself. I actually, genuinely prefer describing the parts of a movie I like, because I want to try to (as objectively as possible) convince someone that this might be worth watching – especially if it’s a new or smaller movie.
Like many internetting humans, I have Netflix, and today they dropped Eli, so I thought ‘why not? how bad could it be?’
Eli starts off fairly promising with some storybuilding: the titular character (Charlie Shotwell) is a boy in a bubble, with an severely dangerous autoimmune condition. Seeking a cure, his parents (Kelly Reilly and Max Martini) take him to a live-in clinic (that must have been a stately home in its previous life) run by the kindly-looking Dr Horn (genre queen Lili Taylor). But as he begins treatment, Eli starts feeling more unwell, is tormented by ghosts that only he can see, and starts to distrust the clinic and its staff, but nobody will believe him.
This would have worked better as the pilot to a series, or as a short film. Two-thirds of the movie are recycled horror tropes that fail to scare at all, but do get the kid actor some exercise, running through various samey-coloured corridors and screaming. Ad nauseum. Then the finale is a left-field insult to the 90 minutes I had wasted, ripped from a completely different sub-genre and calling back none of the built-up narrative beats, weak as they were.
Taylor, our Haunted House Subgenre queen, is wasted in this supporting role, and of the two parents, only Reilly does her best with the one-note material she and Martini are given, though it’s hard to see her facial expressions through the Nell-ish hair they’ve swamped her with. Shotwell does what he can within his age’s limitations, but needed better direction or a revised script as his howling – as anyone’s would grates the ears. He needs to be given more to do than just scream at the same pitch.
There is a semblance of story here that pops its head out in the film’s much-lauded final ten minutes, but it’s not enough to have made the previous 80 worth it. In fact, I’ve already forgotten about this movie.