Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Horror- Day 22: Emelie (2015)

(dir. Michael Thelin)

Dark Sky Films

*First time viewing

A babysitter with, well let’s just say she has some issues, comes to look after three children.

We’ve reached the point in the evolution of the horror genre where babysitters don’t have to play victims to strangers, they are the strangers. If you’ve ever felt a little hesitant about leaving your child in another person’s hand then this may not be the film for you, or hell, maybe it’s the perfect film to tap into that deep-seated anxiety. Even as a non-parent, there’s so much to feel uncomfortable about in Thelin’s twisted babysitter tale, Emelie. From the get-go there’s something off about Sarah Bolger’s eager and overly-interested Emelie. Her desire to comes across as friendly to the family she’s sitting for seems like a cover for deep-seated anxiety, and once the parents leave it’s revealed that Emelie’s issues go far beyond anxiety or mental illness and into the blackness of nihilism. Needless to say, nihilism and children don’t mix.

Every scene becomes a game Emelie’s playing as she attempts to erode their morals and expose them to things no child should see. The film is at its most effective when Emelie’s cruelty is played casually, with a subversive level of abuse that isn’t horrendous but still sends up major red flags. As the film progresses Emelie’s actions become more drastic and violent and we don’t just fear for these children’s mental safety but their physical safety as well. Her frightening and tragic backstory, told to these children as a twisted bedtime story complete with hand-drawn pictures, seek to add rationale to her actions and show that her mind has “cracked.” But the backstory, while interesting, is also a bit of a misdirection in terms of Emelie’s motivation. She may claim that she was cracked by tragedy but if you read between the lines and look at her actions head on it’s clear that there was something wrong with Emelie long before the events of her flashback. There’s something so chilling in Emelie’s belief that her actions stem from this incident and not because of something rooted in her very person. She’s a fascinating character, brought to life in such a layered way by Bolger that I wouldn’t mind seeing a whole sequence of films depicting where this character goes next, as long as its somewhere different. I have an inkling that babysitting isn’t the end-game for her goals, and I want to see what she’ll do next because its guaranteed to create discomfort and further anxiety for smiling strangers.

Scare Factor: 3/5 Emelie is fucked up, in a good way. This is another good horror to watch with a small group of friends, pair it with Orphan and you’re in for a night wrongness.

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