There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
2020 Netflix Halloween Countdown
As crazy as it is to believe, it is already October 2020—it has been a bizarre year, for sure. For the past three years, I have been spending October watching and reviewing some of the spooky, scary, gory, chilling, and horror-themed movies on Netflix. With each review, I will include a table that ranks these movies from best to worst. This year will be my fourth year doing this, and I plan on publishing a new review each day. Some will be from movies that I have reviewed before, but there will be some new movies on here is well. So if you are looking to get in the Halloween spirit by watching some Halloween-style movies, then these articles are for you!
Eli (Charlie Shotwell) has an auto-immune disorder that has made life extremely challenging for him. His parents, Rose (Kelly Reilly) and Paul (Max Martini), have had to keep him indoors in a plastic bubble for much of his day-to-day life. When they venture outside, it is a whole ordeal, as they need to put him in what is essentially a HAZMAT suit. When Eli is exposed to things like air, water, or even dust, his body quickly reacts. He struggles to breathe, his skin breaks out into rashes, and those rashes are extremely painful. Fortunately, however, Eli's parents have found a doctor that might be able to help.
Dr. Horn (Lili Taylor) has transformed an old, abandoned mansion into a facility where she treats kids just like Eli. The facility has a lab where Dr. Horn and her team can run tests and treat the children. The facility has also been cleaned extensively, and the air and water inside is filtered, so Eli can move about the mansion freely, without fear of having a reaction. The family quickly begins to feel some amount of hope, but that hope does not last long for Eli. He begins to think the facility might be haunted, as he begins to see ghosts in the night. The ghosts are after him, and as exhausting as the daily tests in the lab are for him, every night in the facility is a fight for survival against the paranormal entities within the house.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Predictable Ghosts & The Logistics (-3pts)
Jump Scares (+4pts)
The Horror (-4pts)
The Climax (+6pts)
The Parents (-3pts)
Pro: Eli (+6pts)
Eli's story was an interesting one. It felt like Bubble Boy, but in a horror movie, and I thought that was an interesting mix. Much like in Bubble Boy, I was expecting a specific twist ending to this movie, but the filmmakers pretty quickly showed us Eli's reactions, and there was no way that something real was not happening to his body. I was expecting a specific twist, but the filmmakers threw that theory out the window almost immediately. This made it fun to guess what was actually happening throughout the movie.
Was everyone telling Eli the truth and were the ghosts just hallucinations? Was there something supernatural going on in the house? Were Eli's parents doing something to him or was Dr. Horn up to something sinister? Was Eli just an incredibly unlucky boy who actually had a rare, life-threatening illness, and also found himself in a dangerous haunted house? These were the types of questions that were swirling around in my head while watching this movie. It made it an engaging movie, as I was watching pretty intently, trying to rule out or prove any of the many theories that I came up with.
Con: Predictable Ghosts & The Logistics (-3pts)
One thing I did not like about this movie was how predictable the ghosts were. They were not predictable in the sense that I knew exactly what they were going to do in each scene, but I knew whose side they were on. I also knew what their overall goal was, and I had a pretty good idea as to why. Fortunately, there was enough mystery elsewhere that this was not a huge problem for me, but I thought the filmmakers could have done a better job of not making the ghosts' intentions so obvious.
Then there was the final reveal, and the logistics of everything that led up to it. Given what the reveal was, things that were shown and explained earlier did not make any sense. The reveal called into question some of the things that were established earlier in the movie, regarding Eli's sickness and how it worked. It also did not make any sense why Eli had to be in his own room, given what I now know about each of the characters and what their intentions were. These were fortunately things that will not bother you while you are watching the movie, but once the movie is done, and you know the answer to the mystery, thinking back on the plot of the movie will make you realize that there were a bunch of plot issues that the filmmakers probably should have addressed.
Pro: Jump Scares (+4pts)
The horror in this movie was really just jump scares. I will get into the lack of horror later, but the jump scares were mostly effective. Were they scary and will they have you keeping the lights on when you go to bed? No, definitely not, but they made for a number of suspenseful moments.
The best way I can describe it is to compare it to a haunted house at one of those Halloween amusement parks like Spooky World. You go into those knowing you are going to be startled, and you know more or less when you will be startled, but you do not really leave the park any more terrified than you were going into it. That was really what the jump scares in this movie were like. They will leave you anxious, even though you will know what is coming, and in that respect, I thought they worked.
Con: The Horror (-4pts)
I already mentioned this, so I will keep this point brief. Unfortunately, the horror in this movie felt lacking. There were a bunch of jump scares sure, but the horror never felt truly intense. At best, it felt like it was almost there, but it never quite achieved the level of horror that I was hoping for. It felt like Horror-Lite, and that was a bit of a disappointment, as this movie definitely could have used more effective horror moments than it had.
Pro: The Climax (+6pts)
I said the ghosts' motivations were predictable, and I said that this movie pretty naturally made me ask a ton of questions to myself about what the reveals would be and what direction the filmmakers would take this story in. I had a ton of potential theories going into the climax of this movie, so I thought I had a rough idea of where I thought the filmmakers were going. While a couple of my vague, generalized theories were correct, I was not even close to guessing the true reveal of this story. The reveal came and it caught me off-guard, but then the climax just kept going, and it ended up being a climactic finish that I really enjoyed.
Con: The Parents (-3pts)
First there was Eli’s father Paul (Max Martini), who was an unrealistically one-dimensional, antagonistic character. Some of his behavior was made understandable after the reveal, but given that the reveal did not happen until the end of the movie, everything that happened beforehand just made Paul feel unjustifiably cold toward Eli. Then there was Eli’s mother Rose (Kelly Reilly), who was the opposite. Everything before the reveal made complete sense, or at least I thought it did, but then the reveal came, and it made all of her previous behavior feel inconsistent. Rather than write these two characters in a clever way that worked regardless of whether or not you had seen the ending, the filmmakers delivered one character that worked only if you have seen the ending already—Paul—and another character whose behavior will make little sense if you have—Rose.
Grade: B- (81pts)
I saw the trailer for this movie, and it looked okay, but I had not heard of it before and it has been out for over a year already—as of October 2020—so I was not expecting much from Eli. Fortunately, I had a decent time watching it. It felt pretty lacking in the horror department, but it had the sort of effective jump scares that will have you anxious in anticipation, even though you know will know they are coming. It also had two characters—Eli's parents—who felt poorly written, with one character feeling unjustifiably cruel, and the other feeling inconsistent when comparing their actions before and after the reveal. There were also a number of things that happened that did not make much sense once you know how the story ends.
Fortunately, the movie was not without its strengths. While the ghosts' motivations were predictable, I still found the jump scares involving them to be effective at maintaining suspense. I also liked Eli's story in general, as it was a weird but interesting mix between Bubble Boy and a haunted house story, which introduced a ton of questions and pretty naturally invited the viewer to come up with theories regarding how they thought it would go. Then the climax came, and with it came a reveal that was a pleasant surprise, as it felt like it came out of nowhere, but it was delivered through a pretty entertaining and climactic finish. It was not a great movie, but there was enough to like, and I had a decent time watching it.
Train to Busan
In the Tall Grass
The Babysitter: Killer Queen
Hold the Dark
Would You Rather
The Open House
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House