I watched Eli out of an abundance of convenience, as Netflix keeps recommending it to me via auto-playing the trailer every time I log in. “Eli” follows the path of its titular character, a prepubescent boy living with a disorder that makes him “allergic to the world” and forces him to live in a bubble. This presents the viewer with a fantastic horror theme — isolation — that is unfortunately neglected as the movie goes on. Instead, the plot takes a series of more and more bizarre turns.
If you have seen the trailer, you know that Eli’s caring mother takes him to a specialized facility for treatment. The facility presents a fantastic setting in the form an ultra-creepy mansion à la “Haunting of Hill House” (which shares producer Trevor Macy with “Eli”) that has been half-renovated into a medical care facility. Here, Eli can take off his bubble and experience freedom like he hasn’t in years, although barriers like thick plexiglass windows and heavy metal doors with key pad entry and exit restrict him significantly. Eli makes a seamless transition to life out of the bubble, just like any twelve-year-old boy would (sarcasm). This is likely intentional, because the movie has bigger things in store…
Ghosts. What would modern horror be without half-decayed ghost children roaming hallways and doing backbends? These ghosts are pretty standard, relying on many overdone ghosty tropes while providing some decent jump scares. Eli spends a lot of his time either (a) running and hiding from the ghosts, or (b) seeking them out and trying to understand their intentions.
All of this is happening over the backdrop of Eli’s medical treatment under Dr. Horn, who his mother describes as a “miracle worker.” Dr. Horn and her staff, however, are not warm people. Eli begins to question who he can trust in this new place, as he certainly gets little sympathy from Dr. Horn, who administers his treatment with some arcane-looking tools. Was that a corkscrew?
Corkscrews aside, I was overall impressed with the science in the movie. The writing team had enough knowledge of modern gene therapy to really not botch it, which I genuinely appreciated. “Eli” does not rely heavily on the medical science, which is probably good for most people, but as a biologist I would have enjoyed a little injection of “Gattaca.”
Back to corkscrews… “Eli” starts to spiral out of control around the one hour mark. I found it more than a little bizarre, though it was fun piecing together the story the film ultimately tells. One thing is for sure: where you end up is not where you began, nor where you thought you would go. It sure was one hell of a ride, “Eli.”