Have you seen the latest Netflix thriller Eli? If not you’ll want to watch it ASAP before social media ruins THAT ending for you!
There are certain genres that have to get more and more creative to keep viewers on their toes and horror is one of them. At a certain point, you start to put together a pattern and the movies become predictable. Or the creators go too far in trying to avoid those formulaic plots and lose the audience completely. It’s a tricky dance but one that can make or break the entire viewing experience.
When you consider recent horror movies that have done well they have some of the same elements. When I think about movies like Get Out or The Gift, I consider the one amazingly timed twist. With IT, I think of the loveable protagonists. In Hereditary and Midsommar, Ari Aster gave us some shocking moments as well as some completely twisted and terrifying visuals. Movies like Don’t Breathe and A Quiet Place focus on sensory deprivation to increase the tension. The key is that each gave you something that was outside the norm.
Eli does that in a few ways while also stringing you along with some of the typical horror movie points.
Eli is a movie about a young boy, Eli (Charlie Shotwell), who has a debilitating auto-immune disease that has him living in a bubble in his room. He is unable to go outside without wearing a hazmat type suit at the start of the movie.
His parents have saved up their money to take him to a doctor who works out of a creepy-looking house in the middle of nowhere. The house is air-tight so Eli is able to walk around without his suit on within its walls, but almost immediately you can tell something is off. Lili Taylor (American Crime, The Conjuring) plays the “shifty” Dr. Horn and after giving the family a tour of the home she tells Eli that he can’t sleep with his parents; he has to stay alone.
Eli sees a weird figure during the tour but doesn’t say anything. Then, the first night he gets freaked out by something that happens on his window (I’m only mentioning this because it’s in the trailer). There is definitely something going on in this house and the only question is what it is.
More suspicion is raised when Eli goes for his first treatment and his parents aren’t allowed back. Then the nurses are rough with him and rude to him. What is being done to poor Eli?
Let me start by saying that they did a great job with casting Eli. Charlie did an amazing job of portraying a kid his age. Had he been in a bubble all of his life, it would have been hard to believe he would have this much personality but knowing that the disorder only hit him four years prior allows this to be acceptable.
Eli is willing to stand up to authority figures and has a sharp tongue. When one of the nurses asks him: “Do you know what happened to the boy who asked too many questions?”, he sharply responds: “He got answers.” Eli has a few of these moments in the film and some fun interactions with his parents that I personally didn’t expect. They make him incredibly likable while also making you pity him because of his affliction. It’s the same effect that the foul-mouthed and abused kids from IT had on us.
As the movie goes along Eli gets increasingly suspicious and increasingly frustrated that no one believes him. His actions appropriately reflect someone in his situation and that is something I respect in a film of this type.
I mentioned that Eli does hit some of the typical horror movie points and that is true. In the middle of the film, we deal with a lot of cameras panning past ghostly figures, mirrors showing a figure behind someone, and figures being in one place at one moment and being much closer in the next.
There are also some jump scare moments and they almost threaten to take away from all of the good but eventually, things start coming together.
Don’t worry, I won’t reveal the big ones but will discuss the one that is given away.
There is a running joke that many horror movies would end within 10 minutes because the people would simply leave the house. That doesn’t work here. Eli’s disorder does not allow him to walk freely outside so he can’t leave.
The fact that his parents don’t believe him also makes it hard for him to leave so he has to deal with what’s happening to him inside the house. He does have one ally in Sadie Sink (Stranger Things)’s character Haley but she’s outside of the house and only really helps in the way of information.
The major twist, however, is the one that is going to make or break Eli for most people. It doesn’t exactly come out of nowhere, there are a lot of foreshadowing moments, but I’m sure there are reviews that will tell you it does. I personally thought that this moment was handled amazingly and will definitely have you talking once the credits roll, whether you’re angry or excited.
It worked on multiple levels for me.
Eli is currently streaming on Netflix and should be on your spooky season watch list.