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 goes out he wears a blue hazmat suit so he doesn’t come in contact with the air and get a very painful red hive.
In a last attempt to cure him, his parents take him to a secluded clinic, a clean house, where Dr. Isabella Horn (Lili Taylor) promises to make it better. but something darker seems to be lurking in the house and eli is the only one who can see it…
so what was the deal with the creepy bubble boy anyway? 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 beginning of the movie is that four years ago eli had a sudden allergic reaction to, well, everything. since then he lives in a big plastic tent. But his parents Rose (Kelly Reilly) and Paul (Max Martini) find a doctor who says he can cure him.
The house looks like any other house in a horror movie, but in particular it looks eerily like Hill House from Haunting of Hill House. When Eli takes off her hazmat suit, she can breathe easy. his first night, however, is marked by eerie noises outside and what appears to be a hand slipping through the fog at the window.
eli is taken to her first round of treatment, which, according to dr. horn, it could make it worse before it gets better. And boy, does he ever. he is tormented by what dr. horn says they are hallucinations: creepy ghosts that look like sadako from the ring.
When eli hears a clicking noise one night, she discovers a redheaded girl throwing rocks at her window. he goes to meet her, speaking through the glass. She says that her name is Hayley, and tells him that she is not the first child he sees in the house, but that 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. The doctor. horn gets creepier the more treatments eli receives, which predictably make him look sicker.
During one particularly terrifying episode, a ghost carves Eli’s name into a closet door over and over again. but when eli has a different view, she realizes the word is not eli but 317. eli guesses this is the code for a locked door in the medical wing.
While all of this is going on, we’re treated to the unhappy rumors in Paul and Rose’s marriage. he makes a sarcastic comment to her about how he has always been faithful. she criticizes his seeming indifference to treatment on which they have clearly spent a fortune.
rose sees paul and dr. horn whispering something in the hall, but when she approaches, they change the subject. later, she confronts him about it and they fight.
As they argue, Eli rummages through the previously locked office, looking through the files of the previous children Dr. horn supposedly cured. but paul and rose’s fight is so strong that she wakes up dr. horn and her nurses, who begin the search for eli.
paul confirms rose’s fear that dr. horn is not a guaranteed cure. in fact, it can kill eli. Rose panics, grabs her suitcase and plans to leave with her son. The doctor. horn somehow changes rose’s mind.
Eli, having discovered the files and the children’s fate before him (they’re dead!), runs to her parents’ room and begs to leave. his father tricks him into saying he loves him and hugs him (yes, gloomy) before poking him in the arm with a needle.
rose, dr horn and the nurses enter the room and corner eli towards the medical wing. All the while, Eli screams that they are going to kill him, pleading with his parents to save him. Just then, a car outside catches fire, distracting the adults and giving Eli a chance to run.
End up in a dark, airy room with a crucifix. He sees an image of nuns and spots Dr Horn among the robed women. a bug lands on the frame, which it follows through a crack in the wall to a hidden room in the basement.
The basement chamber has a kind of well and a crucifix hanging on the wall. Unbeknownst to Eli, the adults have sneaked up behind him and locked him in the room, which will surely kill him as it is dirty and has allergens. however, that’s the point, as dr. horn: he knows too much.
Eli faints from her allergic reaction, but wakes up with a clear face and no reaction. she starts screaming for his mom, who comes running towards him. he has his back to her as she apologizes for lying about her illness. she begs him through the bars that he take the last round of treatment and then she will tell him the truth.
He faints again, prompting him to get up to open the door, but it was all a trick! he eli hits her over the head with the heavy crucifix and runs away, but he gets caught easily because, you know, he’s a 10 year old.
dr. horn, the nurses, and paul tie him up, 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?) and tries to force them down. let her son go, but paul tricks her into giving up the knife.
The truth begins to unravel: Eli was never sick, but he is actually the son of the devil. yes.
dr-nun horn begins to recite an exorcism prayer as he showers him with holy water. he eli screams, his skin turns red, but then his eyes start to glow and he gets to the full unholy power of him. he easily breaks the bonds and turns the knife on the dr. horn, stabbing her in the shoulder.
He uses his powers to set the nurses on fire, kill his father and leave the house where he sees Hayley. she is also a daughter of the devil, eli’s half-sister, and tells him that all the devil’s children have to come to him in her way. she says that she will take eli and leads him to the car.
Haley demands that Rose drive them there, which she does, with her devil son in the passenger seat. the end.
then, that’s it.
The first two thirds of the film are nothing like the final third, in which ghosts and dubious medical procedures give way to a full-fledged childhood exorcism story.
This is not helped by the parental characters, who change constantly throughout the film. By the end, Paul is adamantly “kill the demon child” while Rose is “rescue my demon baby” even though at first, Paul seemed worried about the whole thing and Rose was excited about it.
there is no concrete explanation of how rose got pregnant. Was it an immaculate conception? Or did she mess with the devil? these are questions that the film does not answer, unfortunately.
so eli begins as a hair-raising exploration of trust and bodily autonomy, and what it’s like when you realize your parents, doctors, and other authority figures are fallible. but then it takes a sharp left turn and turns into an exorcism movie. If there ever is a sequel, we hope it will be a buddy movie as Haley and Eli run rampant across the country.
eli is now streaming on netflix
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