Actors: Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush
Director: Michael Thelin
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Dark Sky Films
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Run Time: 82 minutes
Emelie is a slow-burn thriller that is extremely efficient in building tension and suspense, keeping me captivated until the letdown of an uninspired final act. Without the strength of Sarah Bolger’s convincing performance as the title character, a psychotic young woman disguised as an average middle-class family’s new babysitter, Emelie would have been far easier to dismiss before the screenplay’s shortcomings failed the film. Instead, I was so impressed with the set-up of the narrative, it made the lackluster final reveal that much more disappointing. It builds wonderfully for more than half the run-time before reaching a monotone plateau act, ending with a whimper when it should have been a bang.
Providing a new twist on the home invasion sub-genre, Emelie also flips the victim/monster roles of a typical horror film. When the Thompson family hires a new babysitter so parents Dan (Chris Beetem) and Joyce (Susan Pourfar) can celebrate their anniversary, they think they are getting a young girl named Anna, instead replaced by Emelie (Bolger), whose intentions for the deception are not immediately clear. Their trio of children at different ages inspires a variety of reactions to their new babysitter, especially as she begins breaking the rules set by their parents. Jacob (Joshua Rush) is the oldest and nearing puberty, which makes him susceptible to the new babysitter’s tactic of using her sexuality as a distraction. Meanwhile the youngest, Christopher (Thomas Blair) is given a majority of the attention, while the middle child and only girl (Carly Adams) is treated with malice and disdain by the intruder in disguise.
At first the unconventional style of babysitting is only mildly off-putting, with excessive junk food and encouraged art sessions on the living room walls. Before long, however, it takes a much darker twist into dangerous and damaging behavior, both physically and psychologically. Emelie forces the children to watch a video of their father having an affair (a plot point which goes completely unaddressed, despite obvious tensions amongst the parents during their anniversary dinner), and even places a gun in the hands of one of the children as some kind crazy experiment. Before long Jacob realizes that something is off with the situation, becoming the only hope for protecting the younger siblings that have often annoyed him.
Too many plot holes, gaps in logic, and a climactic sequence which sputters like a car out of gas keeps Emelie from being either memorable or recommendable. All of the effective work from the mysterious set-up is wasted with illogical reveals and resolution, which is even more disappointing because of the potential. There were several times during the film that I was sure I had figured out the final twist, but the actual revelation about Emelie’s motivations was far less interesting than anything I had guessed. Even worse, there are no connections to be made in order to guess correctly, because it all ends up being fairly random despite opportunities for a more logical resolution.
The Blu-ray release comes with a making-of featurette, as well as a trailer for the film. All in all, this is an unfortunately forgettable affair, despite convincing performances from the child actors and a star turn from Bolger, who we will undoubtedly see more of in the years to come. Most of the filmmaking is passable, though none is enhanced or improved by the additional clarity brought with a high definition presentation.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 3.5/10