I Just Finished Netflix's Eli and What Did I Just Watch?
I Just Finished Netflix's Eli and What Did I Just Watch? Because I think the final zig might have snapped the screenwriters' collective necks.
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I Just Finished Netflix’s Eli and What Did I Just Watch? Because I literally have no idea. But maybe we can piece this sucker back together if we work from the back to the front, you know, upside down…cough. Because I Just Finished Netflix’s Eli and What Did I Just Watch?

But for those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet – you can watch it right here on Netflix. Be clear though, this isn’t a movie for the average Joe. I won’t be stopping people on the street to say – “DUDE? Have you seen Eli yet? You HAVE to see Eli.” (Though I have mentioned Zombieland Double Tap three times today alone.) The first half of this movie runs like a thriller procedural. Maybe it’s a Fractured, or a Elizabeth Harvest, or maybe it’s a What Happened to Monday. But then, this sucker swings the bus for a full 180 and doubles back on itself only to go in the opposite direction. (Yes, I could give you 3 other movies like it – but you haven’t seen it yet, and they would all be über spoilers.) If you’d like to read this review without watching the movie – which goes against my normal principals – fine, go ahead. Here’s a trailer to get you up to speed somewhat on the chaos.

Quick Eli Walkthrough

Spoiler Dragons Abound From Here On Out…actually – I don’t care. Let me spoil away would you? Thanks for that.

Eli, (played by Charlie Shotwell and decidedly the best actor in this film) is sick. At least he thinks so anyway. Unfiltered air seems to make Eli extraordinarily sick. So Eli’s parents are taking him to an elite autoimmune syndrome clinic. And Dr. Horn (oh, come on!), played by Lili Taylor, has a patent pending three step process to heal the boy. But no, let’s just jump right to it…’cause Eli isn’t sick. The clinic is actually an undercover convent. The doctor is actually a nun. And her efforts are simply used to rid the children of their evil.

You see, Eli’s mother so desperately wanted to have children that after her prayers went unanswered she began praying to Satan. And as luck would have it! Satan answered. (A much better spin on this same idea is without a doubt A Dark Song.) Only problem is, Eli is a spawn of Satan. He’s evil. And he needs to be cured. Thus the nuns and the undercover convent.

But why would Eli’s father – who is apparently possessed, or some sort of emissary of Satan’s – be working to actively bring Eli to the nuns? Well, apparently Satan sees the nuns as some sort of test to strengthen the children? Or something. That bit is a decidedly weak flow of logic. But whatever. Rose, Eli’s mother, has been lying to Eli in order to help save him from his dark background. But Eli’s father has been lying to Eli’s mother. And Dr. Horn has been lying to them all, because most children that come in, end up being sacrificed in order to save them eternally. Or something.

Which brings us to Haley (played by Sadie Sink – you know her from Stranger Things), the girl that is constantly hanging around the convent, conveniently ready to lend a listening ear whenever Eli needs it. She turns out to also be a spawn of Satan, only she has graduated from the testing, and is there, ready to bring Eli to Satan once the “challenge” is over.

A Few Thoughts About Eli

Let me get this straight…a woman can’t have a child. She invokes Satan, and Satan delivers a husband, a minion(?) to help bring this about. She becomes pregnant, but realizes something is wrong, when the baby comes out hovering? What? Regardless, something tells her this kid isn’t normal.

So immediately, she reaches out to the “church” – and Dr. Horn has ideas. Those ideas consist of injecting the kid with Holy Water, etc. to suppress this innate evil. But doing this causes Eli to be “sick” because he is strong, and is fighting this push by his parents and Dr. Horn? Meanwhile, his real father allows this to happen because it will make him stronger…if he survives?? Am I getting this?

Eli – I Don’t Buy It

OK, so there is a flaw in this story that the writers; David Chirchirillo, Ian Goldberg, and Richard Naing, have delivered us. I do have to give props to Ian Goldberg for his work on the film The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which was a walk down this similar path, but a much better experience. But there was some interesting details in the art design, set design that makes me doubt the story that we are supposed to be swallowing. Let me just show you, instead of tell you:

See that symbol on the cover for the well? That is a pentagram, with three crosses added. That is no symbol that any church I know of uses. So I’m guessing that this was created by the film’s art direction. But it seems to be indicating something the film makers aren’t necessarily intending. Or are they? Six is never a number that the Church uses, except in the connotation of evil. Three crosses and three points of a pentagram talk to an equal battle between the forces of good and evil. 3v3. And that is not a Christian perspective, at all. Equal forces of good battling an equal force of evil is more of a Taoist perspective. You know, Yin and Yang, and evil being the definition of being out of balance. Which may seem, to the unschooled, the same perspective, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, there is no salvific idea in Taoism – just the idea of balance.

But there are theological flaws in the writing that tells me these guys have no idea what they are doing…OR, SOMETHING ELSE is going on here. The biggest screenplay “flaw” is the fact that Dr. Horn (Wait, seriously, I’m supposed to believe that a nun is going to go by the name of Dr. Horn?? I’m sorry.) believes that if the “treatment” doesn’t work, then sacrificing Eli is the only way to save his soul? That isn’t a thing anywhere within the annals of Christianity, let alone the Bible. “But Abraham’s intended sacrificing of Isaac man!” That was a discussion about obedience and trust. If Abraham had sacrificed Isaac, Isaac would have gone to heaven not because of the sacrifice but in spite of it. He already believed. Yes? Stabbing him with a dagger isn’t going to help him believe in God anymore than he did moments before. (If anything it would detract from that belief I would think! hahah.) Eli though, obviously doesn’t believe – which is why his mother brought him here! So how exactly would sacrificing Eli save him spiritually? It wouldn’t.

But Maybe Something Else Is Going On Here?

Yes, this is just a thriller, looking for a clever twist. And yes, I have already gone on too long discussing some screenplay writer’s inconsistencies theologically with the Church. And no, they don’t care enough to be consistent. But what if they were actually consistent? What if they actually had it sorted this all out and did this intentionally? How could it work?

No. Yes, I could give you the evil minions fighting evil minions theory. Or maybe the Dr. Horn is actually Satan theory. Or maybe, possibly, it could be that it’s the mother, who is the hellspawn attempting at redemption by sacrificing her own child on the altar of the Satan.

Yeah, I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. I’m done rationalizing this movie. Basically, what I think happened, was that the writers in the writing room were like – clones? The hospital is filled with clones of Eli once they get there? And someone else says, no, no we can’t do that, that’s been done before. Alright, I got it, I got it – the hospital is stealing organs without the parent’s permission?!? Nope, done before. AH! How about Eli is actually a ROBOT?!??! Done. The Nuns were wronged by Eli’s family and so they keep them trapped in order to get a confession??!? Yeah, done. OK, what about a pedophile ring, and we are using Eli to trap the pedophiles? Not. A. Single. Unique. Idea! It’s been done! And then they all said, collectively…”THE CHURCH! We’ll blame the church! But this time, it’ll be A Dark Song spin off. And no one will see it coming!” And that my friends, is just a clever attempt to hand you a pile of movies better than this one. Hopefully it worked!

Edited by: CY

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9 Responses

  1. deKev

    Just to clarify a plot point, I don’t think the muscleman father is possessed like you said, I think he genuinely wants to get the kid ‘cured’, even if that means having to kill the kid while saving his soul or something, the same lengths as what Dr Horn is prepared to go to, I suppose. Which is unlike the mother, who’s only willing to go as far as ‘experimental drugs’ or perhaps exorcism, and if these fail, so be it, at least she still has a ‘son’, even if he’s a devil incarnate, Satan’s spawn or whatever.

    For what it’s worth, even knowing that everything is just setting up for some clever or awful twist come the end, the reveal still caught me by surprise somewhat. From my experience, when obligatory supernatural horror tropes like dream sequence, creepy ghost child, jump scares, etc, are featured so prominently in the suspense part of the movie, it stands to reason that the plot twist then has just got to be something less supernatural and more grounded or something psychological, right? So yeah, at least the movie has made a refreshing twist on the … twist, I suppose.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      I will give you literally any correction you’d like to make to this post – carte blanche. Just consider it conceded.

      Now, about this movie. Just because they decided that the “church” would be the surprise right-hook doesn’t mean I’m going to fall for it. Especially when the “church” is some sort of counterfeit lameness. Yes, it was a surprising turn. Yes, it was shocking that the house was actually an old church or nunnery or something. And yes, it was a little shocking to find out that mom had sex with satan. heheh. But the story wasn’t exactly airtight, now was it?

      I am totally fine with them throwing the church under the bus. Whatever. But do it convincingly. This pentagram cross amalgam cult group just didn’t make any sense. But yes, it was a clever trick. They just didn’t land it. No? I mean, did you think they landed it?

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    Agree with deKev, from what I understood, Dad was devout and truly thought Eli could be “cured” this way even though Dr. Horn (LOL at that name indeed) wasn’t successful before. Plus, did you catch the treatment? She was infusing him with Holy Water. Again, LOL. I hope no one thinks I mentioned this film because I liked it. Besides for the crazy twist, it was less than mediocre for me. But when the religious angle happened, I wondered if Taylor knew about this film. It doesn’t really seem deep enough to have any hidden meaning, though!

    Reply
  3. deKev

    Is the rest of the story airtight? I’m not sure, but I’m especially mystified by the motive of the ghosts. By that I mean I don’t get why would they want Eli off the property so badly by first scaring him, followed by literally dragging him out the airlock, and finally by leading him to the off-limits medical files. Firstly, I think I can safely assume that the ghosts are the spirit form of Eli’s dead half-siblings – the 3 children who didn’t make it out like Eli, and are left rotting in the cistern. Now my questions: are they redeemed souls/ghosts now fighting on the side of Good? In which case, it would explain they wanted Eli to leave the mansion so that he wouldn’t get to pass some test there and ‘ascend’ to his rightful place as son of Satan. Or are they still Satan’s little children in spirit form? In which case, that would mean they wanted Eli to skedaddle because they did not think Eli would be strong enough to survive Procedure #3. Or are these just simple, good-natured ghosts, who’re only trying to help Eli by making sure he does not end up dead like them. Hmmm, now that I’ve spelled things out, all 3 scenarios can work too, so it doesn’t matter what the writers really had in mind, I suppose.

    The thing about Eli is that it is a one-trick pony, the one trick being THE TWIST. Granted it is one twist that I would presume not very many people would be able to guess correctly. So props go to the writers for coming up with such an original and brazen plot twist. Now is the twist here any more bizarre than, say, Matthew McConaughey’s Serenity’s or John Cusack’s Identity’s? Unlike Serenity or Identity though, Eli does not have much in the rest of the movie to prop up the whole shebang if the twist fails to register. In my experience, some of the greatest movies with a mind-bending twist that changes everything before it, like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects, are blessed with a story so rich and so full of intrigue that they can stand on their own even without the twist ending. No such luck with Eli, sadly.

    Just my 2 cents FWIW. I must say I’m a little surprised Taylor has seen fit to put up his review of Netflix’s Eli, which I hope has not taken the place of another more deserving Netflix Original, In The Tall Grass (I promise this one be good, or better than Eli anyway, haha), but I’m glad that he did.

    Reply
  4. Lisa

    You will remember, though, that after The Sixth Sense, M. Night fell into his own trap trying super hard to recreate that twist in all of his movies and then we wound up with films like The Village which certainly did not live up to his first and best effort. Did you really like In The Tall Grass, that much? I’ll wait to see if Taylor posts about it to get too deep, but I wasn’t a tremendous fan. The Usual Suspects is definitely one of my personal favorites as that is a twist you could never see coming! As for this film, his siblings were probably trying to just get him out of that place not knowing if he’d be strong enough to endure all the procedures but as his sister explains at the end, they are limited to the kind of help they can give. I mean who else but Daddy Satan would let a bunch of his kids die for not being strong enough?

    Reply
  5. Lisa

    Taylor, this movie was not good. Not by a long shot. I hope you don’t think I asked if you saw it because I thought it was and I hope you didn’t watch it because I asked! I wondered if you had seen it based on the religious angle because I knew you would take it apart for that. Maybe next time I’ll be more clear that I’m not asking because I thought something was actually good. If you do choose to watch In The Tall Grass, I’m sure the short story is available for cheap somewhere to compare it to. The movie elaborates on a lot of things because this really was just a very short story and I think more was left up to the imagination in the story and fleshed out for the film.

    Reply
  6. deKev

    @Lisa, did I really like In The Tall Grass? Sure, but only as far as what’s new and available on Netflix that can be considered even remotely mind-blowing. That’s NF from my part of the world anyway… oh hello America! But like you said, Taylor looks to be on top of NF’s new Originals anyway…

    And yes, I so agreed with your take on Shyamalan! For me it’s nearly all downhill from The Sixth Sense on, The Lady in the Water being the absolute nadir, although he did pick things up a bit in recent times with Devil (closed-box, mind-bending stuff that he wrote/produced, ahem, hint, hint) and The Visit.

    Speaking of The Usual Suspects, guess what, I just got Keyser Sozed again in a recent-ish blockbuster in the most unexpected way (duh!), just couldn’t see literally the same trick coming at all (double duh!!). You probably knew what movie I’m talking about anyway, seeing that you have watched soooo many movies mentioned here on THiNC alone, how do you even get the time, haha (nervous laughter)? In any case, I can’t reveal its title having already spoiled its twist ending, haha (ironic laughter?).

    Reply
  7. Lisa

    I think Netflix releases pretty much the same stuff no matter where we live. Which is good because I watch a lot of international stuff and I’m always waiting and waiting which I hate. It must seem like I have oodles of time but I do not, I do come here for some suggestions otherwise I’m scouring for good stuff and I wind up staying up way too late watching and suffering the next day. I’ll have to check out those ones you mentioned by M. Night as I’ve steered away from his stuff recently with the exception of Split and Glass. Now my head is spinning trying to figure out what movie you mentioned. I don’t often go to the movies and if I do, it’s to see something my child wants to see and as we know, most of the films here are not for the kids! The thing I don’t get about Netflix is that they keep churning out mediocre films when they are listed as being worth more than Disney now. So it’s not like they don’t have the money to spend! Well, I guess if I don’t figure it out I will be Sozeyed (sp?I dunno!) too!

    Reply
  8. Gwen

    Ha! Glad you didn’t liked it… that was some piece of crap, right?
    Actually, I don’t want to write more about it, cause we already wasted precious live time seeing it. 😀
    Cheers,
    Gwen, the badger

    Reply

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