19 October 2019 04:36

Rose, Dr Horn and the nurses enter the room and corral Eli towards the medical wing.

Eli is a movie about a ten-year-old boy named – as you might guess – Eli, who is allergic to everything. He lives in a big plastic tent and when he does go out he wears a blue hazmat suit lest he comes into contact with the air and breaks out in searingly painful red hives. In a last-ditch attempt to cure him, his parents bring him to a secluded clinic – a clean house – where Dr Isabella Horn (Lili Taylor) promises to make him better. But something darker seems to be lurking in the house and Eli is the only one who can see it... We've broken it down for you – but be warned, there are spoilers for the Netflix movie from here on out.

All we know at the outset of the movie is that four years ago Eli had a sudden allergic reaction to, well, everything. But his parents Rose (Kelly Reilly) and Paul (Max Martini) find a doctor who says she can cure him. The house looks like every other house in a horror movie, but particularly like Hill House from Haunting of Hill House, weirdly. When Eli removes his hazmat suit, he can breathe easy. Eli is brought in for his first round of treatment, which Dr Horn says might make him worse before he gets better.

He is plagued by what Dr Horn says are hallucinations – creepy ghosts who look like Sadako from The Ring. When one night Eli hears a clicking sound, he discovers a red-haired girl throwing pebbles at his window. She says her name is Hayley, and she tells him he's not the first child she's seen in the house, but she never saw the others leave. The movie continues in this vein, with Eli being haunted and also making more discoveries about what's in the house. Dr Horn becomes creepier the more Eli has treatments, which are predictably making him seem sicker. During one particularly scary episode, a ghost carves Eli's name into a wardrobe door over and over. Eli supposes this is the code to a locked door in the medical wing. Rose sees Paul and Dr Horn whispering about something in the hall, but when she approaches they change the subject. While they're arguing, Eli is rummaging through the previously locked office, searching through the files of the previous children Dr Horn supposedly cured. But Paul and Rose's fighting is so loud it wakes Dr Horn and her nurses, who begin the hunt for Eli. Paul confirms Rose's fear, that Dr Horn's treatment is not a guaranteed cure. In fact, it may kill Eli. Rose panics, grabs her suitcase and plans to leave with her son. Dr Horn somehow changes Rose's mind. Eli, having discovered the files and the fates of the children before him (they dead!), rushes to his parents' room and begs to leave. Rose, Dr Horn and the nurses enter the room and corral Eli towards the medical wing. All the while Eli screams that he's going to be killed, pleading with his parents to save him. Just then, a car outside catches fire, which distracts the adults and affords Eli the chance to run. An insect lands on the frame, which he follows through a crack in the wall to a hidden basement room. Unbeknownst to Eli, the adults have snuck down behind him and locked him in the room – which will surely kill him, since it's unclean and has allergens. That's the point, though, as Dr Horn says: he knows too much. Eli passes out from his allergic reaction, but wakes up to a clear face and no reactions. He passes out again, which prompts Rose to open the door, but it was all a trick! Eli whacks her over the head with the heavy crucifix and flees, but is easily caught because, you know, he's a 10-year-old boy. Dr Horn, the nurses and Paul strap him down, but before they can do anything Rose attacks them with the knife hidden in the crucifix (as good a place as any to hide a dagger, right?) She tries to force them to let her son go but is tricked by Paul into giving up the knife. The truth begins to unravel: Eli was never sick, but is actually the son of the devil. Dr-nun Horn begins to recite an exorcism prayer while showering him with holy water. Eli screams, his skin turns red, but then his eyes begin to glow and he comes into his full unholy power. He tears easily through the restraints and turns the knife on Dr Horn, stabbing her in the shoulder. He uses his powers to set the nurses on fire, kill his father and bust his way out of the house where he sees Hayley. She, too, is a child of the devil – Eli's half-sister – and tells him that all of the Devil's children have to come to him in their own way. She says she'll bring Eli to him, and leads him to the car. Haley demands Rose drive them there, which she does, her devil son in the passenger's seat. The first two-thirds of the film are nothing like final third, in which the ghosts and dubious medical procedures give way to a full-on child-exorcism tale. This isn't helped by the parental characters, who flip-flop constantly throughout the movie. By the end, Paul is firmly "kill the demon son" whereas Rose is "rescue my devil baby" even though at the outset, Paul seemed apprehensive about the whole thing and Rose was gung-ho for it. So Eli starts off as a spooky exploration of bodily autonomy and trust, and what it's like when you realise your parents, doctors and other authority figures are fallible. But then it takes a hard left turn and becomes a straight-up exorcism movie. If there's ever a sequel, we hope it's a buddy-movie as Haley and Eli run rampant across the country. Eli is now streaming on Netflix There's a secret creeping at the center of Eli, the newest addition to the Netflix and Chills slate. Slipping from one subgenre into the next, the big reveal of this frightening film's finale is what kind of horror movie it seeks to be. Directed by Sinister 2 helmer Ciarán Foy, Eli centers on the eponymous boy who is forced to live in a plastic bubble. Young Eli (Charlie Shotwell) has been diagnosed with an aggressive autoimmune disorder that essentially makes him allergic to the world. Watch the trailer for Netflix's Eli below. They are putting their faith in Dr. Isabella Horn (Lili Taylor), who runs an experimental program for kids like Eli. But everything about her treatment is suspicious to this traumatized boy. Far from hospitals or even civilization, Dr. Horn has transformed a grand old mansion into a clean house, complete with an operating room customized for a series of peculiar procedures. Right away, Eli is spooked by what his eye snags in the shadows. Eli's affliction makes his body a hell he cannot escape, and the physical manifestations of his pain are so blistering that your own flesh may crawl. You--like Eli--notice a shadowy figure in the distance, and so are alert, waiting for the jump scare that is sure to come. When it finally comes, the rush of relief comes with a scream that makes your lips tremble then crack into a twisted grin. From the first frame, we are bound to Eli and his perspective, as the film begins in his dream. For instance, what about the smirking redhead (Stranger Things' Sadie Sink) who whispers to Eli through closed windows and urges him toward rebellion? But things escalate quickly, barreling through the body horror, ghost kids, and mind-bending bits to Eli's fourth and final subgenre in act three. But like the film, I've left some clues along the way.To the cast's credit, they handle this final turn with aplomb, bending performances that began as grounded to something more theatrical and fiery. Shotwell ably shoulders the central role, shrieking in pain and terror one moment, then finding his footing as Eli arrives at his fateful finale. Taylor's enigmatic performance comes into focus, while Martini and Reilly turn up the intensity. Her smirking charisma makes her an instantly fascinating figure, and thereby the perfect guide to hold Eli's hand--and ours--through this twisted journey.