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Ciaran Foy Eli Review

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Eli | Review

Eli | Review

Devil May Care: Foy Falters with Campy Horror Flick

Ciaran Foy Eli review Director Ciarán Foy continues with genre in third narrative feature, Eli, a B-grade horror film which takes pains to mask its parameters for some hysterical third act surprises. Children and religion feature heavily once again in Foy’s latest, which hearkens back to his first (and best) offering to date, 2012’s Ireland/UK co-production, Citadel, in which Aneurin Barnard portrayed an agoraphobic father who teams up with a priest to stave off an invasion of feral children in a high-rise.

Landing him enough attention to serve as director-for-hire on 2015’s studio franchise opportunity Sinister 2 (in which James Ransone returned to fend off the evil spirits terrorizing Shannyn Sossamon with her twin boys), it’s a pleasure to see Foy returning to something a bit less contrived this time around. Unfortunately, despite employing the likes of Kelly Reilly and Lili Taylor, his latest is a bit of an underwhelming slog for its first hour, depending solely on the rather wan characterization and performance of Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic, 2016) as a boy suffering from a vague auto-immune disorder whose parents (Reilly and Max Martini) enroll him in a mysterious medical program run by Dr. Horn (Lili Taylor), a woman with a curiously cold beside manner. Sadie Sink of “Stranger Things” plays Eli’s confidante on the outside world, dropping hints at the grisly end met by previous children enrolled in the program.

Eventually, all is revealed in a third act which mistakes gonzo absurdity for chilling thrills, with Reilly and Taylor reduced to camp facsimiles in a narrative which borrows heavily from a number of 1960s and 70s horror classics (the titles of which would reveal too much about the film’s biological ‘roots’). Suffice it to say (and abandon hope all ye who read beyond this parentheses), Satan has a sex-drive which apparently equals that of Zeus.

★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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