By ANA-SOFIA MUNOZ
Think Everything Everything, but far less romantic.
On Friday, Oct. 21, Netflix released an original horror, Eli, centered around a young boy with a rare immunodeficiency disorder that prevents him from any exposure to the outdoors. Eli (Charlie Shotwell) must wear a protective suit and stay separated from the rest of the world. However, his desperate parents Rose (Kelly Reilly) and Paul (Max Martini) have found the solution: the treatment of supposed miracle-worker Doctor Horn (Lili Taylor) at her sterilized “clean house.” The enigmatic Haley (Sadie Sink), who wanders the house grounds, warns Eli to be wary of Dr. Horn. As Eli undergoes intense treatments, he begins to see things that lead him to question who he can trust.
Although the film begins with a very promising start, it falls short during its last moments.
Unsurprisingly, the film withholds information from the audience as a way of keeping viewers engaged. While this is effective towards the beginning of the movie, as the film goes on, it becomes increasingly more confusing. Furthermore, crucial details are revealed in a haphazard rush during the last stretch of the movie, and despite some foreshadowing, the amount of information introduced at one time comes across as more of a burden to the audience than a surprising reveal. When combined with the film’s slow pace, viewers may be left feeling that all of the previous world-building in the movie was for naught.
Similarly, one of the film’s most outstanding shortcomings was its plot twist. In an attempt to shock the audience, the film instead turned its more unique premise into an overdone storyline. The plot twist came across as a way of saving a story with no direction, which ultimately fell through. This was made all the more disappointing by how well the film executed its scares and built suspense surrounding the story; rather than relying on jumpscares, it used distinct cinematography to incite fear.
For example, in one scene, viewers get multiple glimpses of one of the entities terrorizing Eli. Gradually, it approaches him in the mirror, slowly building dread in both Eli and the audience. The plot twist disrupts this flow of events in the movie, feeling out of place following such a seemingly well-thought-out setup. Unfortunately, the formerly compelling story appears to dissipate at the film’s conclusion.
Nevertheless, the film does have its strong points.
Initially, Eli does an excellent job of creating a promising story surrounding the characters. Audiences can easily sympathize with the young protagonist, who wants nothing more than to be healed from his illness. Eli constantly wishes to live a normal life, and upon arriving at Dr. Horn’s treatment facility, viewers can see his optimism at the possibility of being cured.
In addition, viewers can also find themselves siding with Eli’s parents as they struggle to cope with his condition. Rose, in particular, appears to be at her wit’s end trying to help her son. While the well-executed characterization helps to improve the film, by the end of the movie, it does little to salvage the remnants of a poorly executed plot.
Unfortunately, the same goes for the cast’s performance in the film. Shotwell and his fellow young co-star Sink both play their roles with exceptional ability. In fact, nearly all of the characters perform well in each of their respective roles. Yet, once again, these strong performances are undermined by the weak plot.
Overall, if you can look past the movie’s drawbacks, Eli can be i=’a last-minute addition to your Halloween horror movie night binge.
But, if you choose to skip this film, you will not find yourself sick from missing out.