‘Eloise’, an odd mash-up of standard haunted asylum thrills and a rather drama-esk finale all packaged in a highly polished, well-acted but somewhat schizophrenic production.
Named after a real-life decommissioned asylum of the same name, the film takes place in a fictional present day. The asylum, a now derelict shell, was shut down following a fire which cost the lives of staff and inmates a like. We open as a young man is summoned to the reading of his fathers will, a father he never knew all that well. There is a slightly mysterious subplot regarding his father suicide, but ultimately the real meat of the story follows the only stumbling block to him inheriting the $1.2 million dollars owed to him. His Aunt, an inmate at the asylum is dead, but not officially, and waiting for her to be officially dead would take 7 years. This means that there is only one logical course for such characters written into horror films, breaking into the asylum to collect the death certificate held in the secure ‘annex’ wing. Accompanied by his criminal friend, a guy with autism (and an unhealthy obsession with Eloise), and his carer sister, the four embark on a visit to the asylum and rather predictably get from it more than they bargained for.
(Oh, and of course the head doctor who ran the joint was a complete nutter who enjoyed torturing his patients under a vague pretence of curing them. But you got that already, right?)
Before we get into more familiar critique, I would like to begin by saying that the production value is sleek, really really, sleek, the acting, writing and characters are also, top notch stuff. Indeed, it’s the best 3/5 movie to be awarded such a mediocre score!
I feel some elaboration is needed…
The first half of the film is your straight up jump scare asylum fayre. Ghosts which can only be seen on the CCTV, odd shadows flittering in torchlight and of course peek-a-boo faces in glass windows etc. The film does well to build up some atmosphere and whilst some of the shocks and jolts are somewhat trite, I was buying into the product being sold to me. The sets looked fantastic and I was relieved to see that there wasn’t a handy-cam in site as the group navigate the authentic looking rotting asylum. As I said, the acting was fantastic and the story was moving along well. By the end of the second act (about 50 minutes in) I liked the way the film was building, and the threat was revealed – think a bigger budget ‘house on haunted hill’ doctor and you are in the ball park.
Complete U-turn, horror has left the building.
The whole of the third act takes place in an alternate time-period where the history of the characters is explored. I will admit that it has continuity with the rest of the story, and there are hints at the characters past and their unknowing links with the asylum scattered throughout the film, but I just didn’t recognise that they were going to essentially dominate the films conclusion. The films finale is up to the same standard as the rest of the film, and it is satisfying in its own way, but I just cannot for the life of my figure out the rationale behind the change of direction. Indeed, I don’t think I have seen a film with such an identity crisis since ‘Contamination’ and its James Bond style finale!
Overall, this film is a decent piece of film making, just not a great film overall. I enjoyed concepts, little twists in the plot, and, above all this film is well put together, however, this film would struggle to find the niche fanbase which most genre films manage to appeal to due to its change in tone and direction about 2 thirds of the way through. Perhaps give it a go, but just don’t expect a ‘standard’ asylum chiller.