“The devil always lies.” – Rose
Included in the 2015 Blacklist for top unproduced screenplays (written by the guys who wrote ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe‘), this Paramount production was purchased last year by Netflix. When a boy with some sort of auto-immune disorder, arrives at a treatment facility with his parents, he hopes to get cured and finally live a normal life.
Eli (Charlie Shotwell), at first hopeful, meets Dr. Horn (Lili Taylor) at her lush yet minimalistic mansion – fully equiped to house patients with conditions such as the young boy’s. When getting the grand tour of the house, Eli notices shadows lurking in the corners. After his first of three treatments, where Dr. Horn and her loyal team of nurses take tissue samples, the teenager wakes up in his room haunted by seemingly malicious spirits, scaring him into his parents bedroom. When trying to explain this to the team of professional scientists, they quickly file this under hallucinations from the anaesthesia. But when things seem to get worse and worse with every day passing, and treatments getting more intense, Eli uncovers secrets that lie deep within the facility, that will turn his own and everyone else’s lives upside down with apocalyptic consequences.
Ciarán Foy (Sinister 2) isn’t new to the horror genre and directs this with much needed confidence. Some jump scares don’t land, but I have to admit when some heavily mutilated children run towards you out of nowhere, you’ll try and duck away. It also helps when your director of photography (Jeff Cutter – 10 Cloverfield Lane) knows how to put things in perspective and gives you angles others might not even think of. The score by Bear McCreary (Godzilla II: King of the Monsters) also gives you the much needed suspense as soon as the film starts.
Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic), who plays our titular character, has to carry this entire film on his own, and he partially succeeds. His screaming and yelling gets quite tiring after a while, but he definitely lands the more serious and dramatic scenes. Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone) is the other standout, playing Eli’s mother with much needed intensity and depth to embody her character’s struggles as a caring parent.
Unfortunately, the always strong Lily Taylor, who has starred in scary movies such as ‘The Conjuring‘ and ‘The Haunting‘ is particularly weak as Dr. Horn. Not only does her character play a big part in the reveal around Eli’s disease, but it’s pivotal to the entire storyline. Emotionless and boring, Taylor didn’t seem to know what went on in this story. Max Martini (Fifty Shades Freed), also laughably overacts as Eli’s father.
‘Eli‘ is part ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble‘, part ‘The Others‘ and part ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘. Nonetheless entertaining for 98 minutes, with a twist ending you’ll never see coming and makes you wanting more.
Netflix Review – ‘Eli’
Reviewed on Netflix, Oct. 20, 2019. CBA Rating: MA15+. Running time: 98 min.
PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an Intrepid Pictures, Bellevue Productions, Paramount Players production. Producers: Trevor Macy, John Zaozirny. Executive producers: Matt Alvarez, Jenny Hinkey, Melinda Nishioka. Co-executive producer: Mike O’Sullivan. Associate Producer: David O’Leary.
CREW: Director: Ciarán Foy. Screenplay: David Chirchirillo, Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing. Camera (color, widescreen): Jeff Cutter. Editor: Jason Hellmann. Music: Bear McCreary.
WITH: Charlie Shotwell, Kelly Reilly, Max Martini, Lili Taylor, Sadie Sink, Deneen Tyler, Katia Gomez.