Review: ‘Emelie’ Draws Horror From The Ordinary
After watching ‘Emelie,’ you’ll never look at babysitters the same way again.
What happens when a movie mixes things like handguns, unsavory themes and children? It makes you cringe, it makes you squirm, it makes you scream “No, don’t do it!” at your viewing screen. ‘Emelie’ makes you HATE it, and that is exactly why it is a darn good horror movie. What starts off as a normal scenario of two parents taking a night to themselves with the enlisted help of a babysitter, somehow lands on the most horribly extreme end of the spectrum of what could possibly go wrong. With ‘Emelie,’ Director Michael Thelin (story) and Rich Herbeck (story & screenplay) bring an everyday occurrence into a new light, or should I say violently shove the concept into the darkest of shadows. The concept of how we blindly enlist strangers to help us daily, from baby-sitters to Uber drivers, with little to no knowledge of what dangers might lie beneath the surface.
Click HERE for Pooya’s exclusive one-on-one interview with ‘Emelie’ director and story co-writer Michael Thelin.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Screenplay, etc.) – 4
The film’s pacing is brisk, but without rushing any of the suspense building element. The story was balanced enough to paint an informative picture of the family’s group dynamic as well as their individual personalities in an organic way, never forcing any information upon the audience. The acting on behalf of both the children and the lead adult was realistic and fluid, something that can be very hit or miss when it comes to young actors and the often-restrictive red tape that surrounds their employment. All in all, ‘Emelie’ takes the old horror model and spit-shines it into a much more self aware and nuanced commentary on everyday life. While it’s not perfect, it definitely stands apart the typical horror crowd. And again, that is a good thing.
Sarah Bolger (“Once Upon A Time” & “Agent Carter”) goes from innocently charming to wickedly maniacal with her unsettling portrayal of the title character Emelie. Again, working with child actors can be such a cinematic hit or miss, but Bolger displays and instant chemistry and believability that hooks the audience straightaway. I am very much looking forward to seeing future projects that she is involved with, especially if she remains within the Marvel universe (i.e. “Agent Carter”).
I said it already and I’ll say it again, the child actors were highly effective. Joshua Rush (“Family Guy” & “Chuck”) plays the eldest son of three kids, struggling to come to terms with his coming of age and growing responsibility in life. Rush really captures the prepubescent turmoil and youthful curiosity of his character. Also excellent were Thomas Bair and Carly Adams as Rush’s younger siblings. Together, the ensemble really captured the innocence and inherent obedience and/or rebellion of children.
It often seems that subtlety is dead in many modern horror movies, with generic scripts hidden beneath an onslaught of special effects. Refreshingly, ‘Emelie’ manages to break apart from the ordinary crowd and focus more on a subtle and classical suspense format with a modern spin. Instead of taking the easy way of using deus ex machina, demonic or supernatural intervention, ‘Emelie’ explores an unthinkable worst case scenario of something as benign as hiring a babysitter. A special nod needs to be given to Thelin for the developmental pacing of the film that effectively absorbs the audience’s attention. The story starts slow and establishes a firm and believable base before picking up the tempo to ultimately crescendo in the the third act, all the while maintaining a level of unpredictability. So, for the audience watching, what starts as a light jog suddenly turns into a downhill sprint for survival.
Entertainment Value – 4
Like I said before, you will hate ‘Emelie.’ And, like I said, that is precisely why it’s a good example of a successful horror film. The film definitely makes you feel SOMETHING in reaction. Bolger’s performance starts subtly, leaving the audience wondering what bad things are in-store. Simply put, the movie really keeps you guessing as to what will happen and when it will happen. For that reason I would say that ‘Emelie’ is highly entertaining. It will definitely cause a little anxiety, but isn’t that what a good horror movie should do? Thelin does a good job keeping the story on-track with the focus remaining on the core story, with tasteful insertions of side-story or back-story to supplement the character’s natural development.
Re-Watchability – 3.5
I will undoubtedly watch this film again. I will show it to my friends. I don’t know if I would own it over streaming it in the future, and I am by no means saying it is perfect, but ‘Emelie’ is still pretty darn good. For something so simple and subtly done, ‘Emelie’ is a great horror watch and hopefully a sign of more similarly mindful movies to come.
One thing is certain, after watching 'Emelie' you will never look at babysitters the same way again. 'Emelie’ makes you HATE it, and that is exactly why it is a darn good horror movie. A worthy horror watch and hopefully a sign of more similarly mindful movies to come.