Eli first got onto my radar when people kept talking about how scary it was. As someone who basks in horror films and strangely enjoys getting scared, I got excited. Horror movies haven’t really been terrifying as of late as the genre has evolved into a more direct reflection of the human experience. While the poetry and the artistry of it all is much appreciated, I missed the days when a horror movie would keep me up at night not because I was going through existential dread but because I keep seeing faces every time I closed my eyes. So, I hopped onto Netflix in search of this horror film that supposedly had people seeing demons in the dark.
The titular character, Eli, is a boy in a bubble who couldn’t interact with the outside world because it made him sick. He would stay inside a literal bubble and just a small bit of exposure to anything outside of it would cause him to have rashes and hyperventilate. He and his parents travel to this facility where a miracle doctor would supposedly cure him and that’s where his real troubles start.
Coming from the producers of Netflix’s hit series The Haunting of Hill House, I expected subtle scares and a tone that would settle on the skin as the movie progressed. While we had hints of the Mike Flanagan (Hill House director, not attached to this project) print on a couple of scenes, the tone of the film felt flat. The first act, while it introduced [mild] eeriness, dragged on for so long in a pace that wouldn’t help anyone get attached to the characters on screen. The timing was a bit disjointed and its scares weren’t all that scary despite everyone saying that they were.
The redemption comes in the final act of the film when all is being unraveled. The film makers left hints and clues throughout the movie (the upside-down cross on the front door being a glaring example of this) which came together in the end to reveal something that caught me off guard. It could have been a genius twist. Had they set up the grand finale with a heavier tone and a scarier atmosphere, it would have been perfect. However, as the climax fell, so did everything else.
Should you watch Eli? Yes. It’s still a well-made film from a technical standpoint and an interesting story to follow if you survive the slow first act. Is Eli the ‘scariest movie on Netflix’ or ‘as scary as The Haunting of Hill House’? Simply put, no.