Ginger Nuts of Horror
IT MAKES YOU WONDER IF EMELIE WAS SENT AS SOME SORT OF ANTI MARY POPPINS TO RESCUE THE CHILDREN FROM A LIFETIME OF BANALITY.
Heaven knows it is hard enough getting a babysitter, let alone one that you can trust and god forbid a babysitter that won't torment, terrorise and taunt your terrible tots. Don't let Hollywood films like Adventures in Babysitting fool you into thinking that babysitters are all fun and your kids will have a great time with them. The majority of them are surly teenage girls who will raid the chocolate biscuits and crisps from your cupboard, some will be good babysitters, but God Forbid you get a babysitter like Emelie. If that happens you may as well kiss your happy family life goodbye.
The film opens with a young woman complaining on her mobile phone that she can't meet up with her friends as she has to go to a babysitting job, as she is walking down the street on her way to her babysitting job, she is stopped by a driver in a car looking for directions. As she tries to help the driver she is then assaulted from behind and thrown into the back of the car. Even though the act of her assault is obscured by the camera angle we know that as soon as dad of the family looking for a babysitter picks up "the babysitter" we know that there is a wolf in sheep clothing about to crash into their lives.
Initially everything seems OK, if a bit odd, the babysitter "Anna" just seems a bit flighty, encouraging her charges to play let's pretend, and to rip up the living room cushions to make costumes for their characters. We get hints that things aren't completely right with "Anna's" mind when she says
“Pretending is a super power. And when you get really good at it, nobody can tell you’re pretending anymore.
This is the first peek behind the curtains of her mentality, we know that there is something not quite right with her, and our suspicions that she had something to do with the assault at the start of the film are finally confirmed.
However the wanton destruction of a few throw pillows is just the beginning, a game of Hide and Seek takes a rather awkward turn when Josh finds her on the toilet, and a tense scene involving Josh, Anna and a gun will have you squirming in your chair.
Josh then discovers that Anna is in fact Emelie, and we find out the reasons as to why Emelie is acting the way she is, and what her end goal is. It is now up to Josh to find a way to save his siblings and defeat the crazy assed babysitter.
Emilie is a great film, and if it wasn't for a few details it would be an exceptional film. It is the feature film directorial debut of Michael Thelin, who perviously worked as a music video and television director, and it shows admirably that Thelin is a director to watch out for. The film as a strong directorial push with the use of some brilliant camera shots such as the opening scene, which is a fantastic piece of cinematography both in terms of delivery and they way in which it sets up the whole movie. The film also benefits from a wonderfully bleached out palette that lends the film a dream like almost fairytale quality.
However the real star of the film is Sarah Bolger and her star performance as the crazy Emelie. It is a captivating performance that completely draws the viewer into the story and the expience of the film. A nuanced, and honest portrayal of a person with severe mental issues. Her performance could so easily have slipped into an a sea of overacting and over the top theatrics, but Bolger keeps her performance grounded and restrained thus making Emelie even more terrifying.
Bolger is bolstered by a fabulous trio of young actors who play her charges in the film. In so many films like this the film is soiled by a terrible performance from one of the child actors. Thankfully this isn’t the case here, all three performances are strong and despite them being rather annoying at the start of the film, you do end up rooting for them when they finally put away their petty sibling rivalry and team up against the threat of Emelie.
The portrayal of the parents as a pair of bland disassociated adults was an inspired move. Interspersing the scenes at the restaurant intersperse with the main film is brilliantly pulled off. The bland, boring and neutral personas and relationship contrasts perfectly the trials and tribulations that their children are going through. This is especially the case when they appear next to the let’s pretend section, it makes you wonder if Emelie was sent as some sort of anti Mary Poppins to rescue the children from a lifetime of banality.
With fantastic performances, a tight and clever direction and a tense narrative Emelie should be an exceptional film, however there is one thing that prevents this film reaching such heady heights.
The one factor that stops this from happening stems from the reveal of Emelie’s motives. Now I know every film requires some suspension of belief, it is why we don’t all shout at the screen as a Tie Fighter roars across the screen, even though we all know there is no sound in space, that doesn’t bother us.
Now, Emelie’s motives don't require the same suspension of belief, but when this segment of the film and the subsequent methods she employs to see her motives to fruition, just feels underdeveloped and lazy when compared to the rest of film. It’s hard to fully discuss this without giving too much away. Suffice to say that it comes close to being just another home invasion film, which is a pity, It feels as though a different writing team worked on this part of the film, when it is compared to the finale of the film you will see exactly what I mean.
The finale of the film is both brave and a stroke of genius, it will, without giving anything away leave you wondering what just happened and when you realise just what has happened you will applaud the director and screenwriter for going so far against the tide of clichéd horror films.
Emelie is tense and menacing film whose restrained handling of the subject matter and the horror of the situation makes for a very interesting take on well worn trope. Clever and chilling Emelie marks the start of what could very well be an exciting new directorial career.
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