Netflix 'Eli' Review: Jump scares, wails, and screams let down by weak storyline
Ciaran Foy's film isn't for the faint-hearted and if you're in the mood for watching a decent horror flick, 'Eli's worth the whirl.
Netflix's Original Horror Movies, on its veritable list, has a new entrant in 'Eli.' A 90-odd minute film that relies heavily on one particular twist. Such is the reliance that at some stage, it masks the solid cast performances and the painstaking filmmaking efforts. However, by no means is Ciaran Foy's horror drama an average film. Perhaps, it could have been a tad stronger as the ending leaves you divided — whether or not to like the film. Honestly, it builds rather well and continues to spook, but right at the end, the twist gives you the feeling of being seen.
Eli (Charlie Shotwell) is a frail 11-year old who is introduced to the world as a boy who needs a pint-sized space suit. His immune system is severely compromised and the faintest exposure to natural elements leaves him writhing in pain and agony. Prolonged exposure will surely kill the kid. In what comes as a last-ditch effort, his parents (Kelly Reilly and Max Martini) squeeze the last of their money and take Eli to a clean house run by a certain mysterious Dr. Horn (Lili Taylor).
Strongly convinced that she could heal their son, the couple visits her and then begins a series of downright bizarre medical treatments. It's agonizing to see Eli go through what could be termed as a traumatic procedural and adding to this existing horror is the paranormal element that does a decent job of giving you the chills. There are some scenes that make you think of 'The Conjuring' or 'The Haunting of Hill House', but Foy tells the story of a boy and ghosts confined in one small space. The jump scares, the wails and the screams are impressive, and perhaps would have been a lot stronger had there been a more concrete storyline.
Also sharing some screen space is 'Stranger Things' star Sadie Sink who seems to be the only other person who staunchly believes the clean house/medical facility is haunted. She warns him that Dr. Horn isn't necessarily a good doctor. Right from the word go, its evident Eli is a victim of lack of trust. Even when the poor kid is terrified to his wit's end, all his folks can manage is an "it's okay" when it clearly isn't. And we're not talking about the ending, we wouldn't want to spoil the watch given the "divided opinions" element we mentioned.
There are times when the movie assures you that Eli is hallucinating and is caught in a web of confusion. Couple this with Dr. Horn's calming explanations of the treatment's side-effects, you would think the whole supernatural factor is just a rather strong figment of Eli's imagination. That's exactly where the twist comes in and if you're a seasoned horror fan, we can bet you will have a thin smile of satisfaction. If you aren't and you are equally shuddering like Eli, then this one's for you as it is a worthwhile watch.
Shotwell is a child with potential. He shoulders the film and has the perfect foil in Taylor's Horn. Sink is impressive as Haley while Reilly and Martini essay the role of troubled parents eager to see a cured Eli to perfection. Foy's venture isn't for the faint-hearted and if you're in the mood for watching a decent horror flick, 'Eli's worth the whirl.