Eli follows the titular boy and his parents as they try to cure him of a severe auto-immune disorder by taking him to a remote facility built from an old mansion. The boy tries to cope with the hauntings of the building and the mysterious and controversial treatment.
It's rather convenient that one of the movies we missed at Telluride Horror Show popped up on a streaming service so quickly. We knew Eli was heading to Netflix eventually, but it was nice to see it show up while it was still top-of-mind from the festival.
Eli is pretty basic, standard haunted house fare with a twist that seemingly had more potential to be a pertinent tool for scares throughout a story rather than a means to an end for a crazy twist. Eli takes the bubble boy concept and places it in a haunted house script. The idea of a child trying to survive a haunting while confined to a relatively small plastic space sounded like such a unique opportunity for claustrophobic atmosphere. But instead that is thrown out quite quickly for an ordinary haunted mansion that happens to be contaminant-free.
The scares are fairly generic and often predictable, but there is a style and finesse present that makes them work effectively most of the time. The plot plods along as you would expect, as supernatural happenings gradually increase with the progression of tension. The big thing here is who do you trust? The parents? The ghosts? The doctor? The friendly girl outside? There are enough whodunit-like caricatures that they genuinely convolute your ability to determine the actual antagonist of the tale until the climax hits you in the face.
The climax is easily the highlight of the film. Unfortunately, part of the ending's undeniable appeal is the rest of the film's lack of charisma. By comparison to itself, it's an amazing break from the boring norm. Of course, to discuss it would ruin it, so we'll leave it at that.
Eli is generally predictable and methodical up to its climax. It's just one of those films that spends all of its time building to its twist and treats its first hour and change as a means to an end. The good movies are able to integrate their twist into an interesting plot with creative elements, but this film lacks that skill throughout its runtime, making a pretty fun ending barely worth it.