It seems that many filmmakers are exploring the horror genre lately and many of them tend to copy themselves. Eli, a Netflix movie, comes from relatively unknown director, Ciaran Foy and is headlined by the young Charlie Shotwell in the title role.
Eli is a boy who suffers from a gene therapy virus known as Autoimmune Syndrome and his parents, in a bid to end their son’s predicament so that he can live a normal life, take him to a remote treatment facility, where they are given the guarantee that he will be cured.
His condition has made Eli overly cautious, shy and suspicious and right from the moment he steps into the place, he senses that something is wrong (the viewer will definitely know this as well as this is where the movie’s predictability starts to reduce its appeal).
Eli knows that all is not what it seems in the medical facility and the owner of the place, Dr Isabella Horn (played by Lili Taylor) looks like she knows more than she is admitting (another boring predictable development). It’s not long before he begins to see things and from that point, the movie takes a lot of scenes from previous horror movies that make the viewer know how each scene will play out. This doesn’t help at all as the suspense becomes more or less non-existent.
Eli tries to convince his parents that Dr. Horn and the others are hiding something sinister but (yes, you guessed it!) they don’t believe him and the ‘good doctor’ waves it off as his reaction to the drugs he is being given. The youngster’s nightmares become reality as each passing moment brings him closer to the truth and he finds an unexpected friend in a stranger; a girl by the name of Haley (Stranger Things star, Sadie Sink).
Sadie tells Eli that he is onto something as she is aware (on some level) of the recent history of the place. This makes him more determined to get to the bottom of things and soon enough things go from weird to downright crazy and unexpectedly supernatural.
Eli tries to be more than it is and in the end, it shows that it has been masquerading as your typical thrilling horror story. Some of the moments that were supposed to be major plot twists fall flat and before the end, there is the temptation to just stop watching as it could only end in one way. But then third act blows that train of thought right to hell.
The final confrontation takes the story to an unexpectedly darker place that is as shocking as it is controversial (a lot of people are not going to like where it goes) as the young actor who plays the protagonist shows that he is talented enough to handle major character arcs.
Just before the movie ends, the young Charlie Shotwell easily makes the transformation from scared and sickly boy to something else entirely (I guarantee that you will not see this one coming)!
The beginning and middle of the movie will not leave any good or lasting impression on movie lovers as it is filled with countless rip-offs from horror classics, but the ending almost saves the film. I say almost because it doesn’t quite succeed in elevating the movie but is quite creative and scary.
Shotwell must be commended for his performance (most notably the last part of the film) as it is not easy for a young actor to carry the weight of this type of movie on his little shoulders. Taylor also shines as the creepy Dr. Taylor, bringing out the conflict that drives the story. Sadie Sink also does a good job as the character who is later revealed to be more linked to the plot that many would have anticipated (again, not what you may be thinking).
In all, Ciaran Foy’s movie starts out pretending to be something it’s not, almost becoming a turn-off, eventually rises to the occasion but leaves us in a state of controversial conundrum. It’s hard to say if this movie succeeds or not.