2015 - 80 minutes
Directed by: Michael Thelin
Written by: Richard Raymond, Harry Herbeck
Starring: Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams, Thomas Bair, Susan Pourfar, Chris Beetem, Randi Langdon, Dante Hoagland
Some of the scariest home invaders are those who are invited in. Wacko babysitter movie Emelie plays on that fear of being betrayed by a trusted someone, placing kids in peril after their parents willingly open their home to someone we know has bad intentions. It’s a slow burn setup to a psychological thriller that’s effective for its first half before fizzling when motives are revealed and horror cliché replaces more cerebral chills.
Suburban fears are established in an unsettling opening when a teen girl named Anna is abducted in broad daylight as kids play nearby. Later that evening, Dan (Chris Beetem) picks up who he believes to be Anna (Sarah Bolger) – though the title of the film has to refer to somebody, no? – to babysit his three kids while he and his wife Joyce (Susan Pourfar) go out for an anniversary dinner. Their regular babysitter had to cancel last minute and Anna comes “highly recommended.”
After acting cordial while getting a tour of the house and instructions on bedtimes, etc., “Anna” begins acting strange and highly inappropriately with the three children in her charge – 11-year-old Jacob (Joshua Rush), younger sister Sally (Carly Adams), and toddler Christopher (Thomas Bair).
Bolger does a fantastic job of underplaying her character’s strangeness early on, exerting her will with a monotone delivery and a permissible attitude any kid would embrace. (I get a whole bag of cookies? awesome!) But she’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, doing horrible, scarring things to the kids that are constantly upping their future therapy bills.
Director Michael Thelin and writers Richard Raymond and Rich Herbeck bluntly present the events in a matter-of-fact way that adds to the creepy factor. Anna’s extreme acts are presented naturally without a lot of pomp, and the restraint is impressive.
That touch, and the tension, wavers when the final act hits however, dropping the measured approach for some lunacy that doesn’t quite jibe with what came before. Motives are handled in a bit of a clunky, blunt manor, while potential interesting emotional threads are left hanging. There are plenty “why don’t they (specifically the seemingly capable 11-year-old) just do this” moments in final 20 minutes. From the antagonist side, there’s one extreme act meant to stop the parents from discovering the goings on that seems way over-the-top even for a psychopath.
Meanwhile, the tension between Dan and his son that’s hinted at never has a satisfying resolution, nor does any of the real damage done to the kids. Not that we could see the full impact on the same night, but the fracturing of the family isn’t allowed to leave an impact as Emelie focuses more on the mechanics of plot in the final moments rather than the consequences of what had been perpetrated.