ELFIE HOPKINS

2.5 out of 10

Release Date: 20th April 2012

Director: Ryan Andrews

Cast: Jaime Winstone, Aneurin Barnard, Rupert Evans, Kate Magowan, Kimberley Nixon, Gwyneth Keyworth, Will Payne with Steven Mackintosh and Ray Winstone

Writer: Ryan Andrews & Riyad Barmania

Trailer: ELFIE HOPKINS

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Oh-oh.  This was a mistake. Try to recall Tim Burton when he was at his most magical. Actually, strike that, I’m thinking of the early 90s film adaptations of The Addam’s Family by Barry Sonnenfeld.  Try to remember the first one, with all it’s witty gothic spectacle and quirky humour.  Then imagine it with all of it’s twists, it’s wit, it’s devilish script, it’s wonderful performances all excised.  Now you have Elfie Hopkins.  Perhaps the laziest attempt at a gothic thriller I’m yet to see.  It has zero characterisation and minus zero tension or style.  This won’t be the worst horror flick set in Wales released this year however, we can safely predict that The Reverend (2012) won’t be outdone.  At least there is a vague air of professionalism in fleeting supply in Elfie Hopkins.  

Okay, the poster describes this as a cross between Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd – so you know you’re squarely in Tim Burton-lite territory.  The makers will have to do better than provide a few gnarled trees and dry ice to garner such lofty comparisons (eventhough I’m not a fan of the former).  Elfie Hopkins (JAIME WINSTONE – WILD BILLis an amateur detective who looks like she’s fell into Grotbag The Witch’s (The Pink Windmill Show) wardrobe.  She is obsessed with the unsolved murder of her mother a decade earlier.  Along with her besotted sidekick Dylan Parker (Aneurin Barnard – HUNKY DORY) she becomes notorious in her village as the local nut who is always on the look out for something ‘rotten in Denmark’.  When The Gammons, a family of city slickers, move in next door her search for little piggies and suspicions prove bang on.  This time her detective skills lead her to something all too grisly even for her.  And so we have it, tired splatter ensues. The Gammons are led by the smarmy if bland Rupert Evans (HELLBOY) who are minted from arranging bespoke luxury holidays.  Only life on a beach is a far cry from what their customer’s actually end up with. Oooh the mystery.

So what’s wrong with it? Quite a lot I’m afraid. Number one, the editing is terrible.  Scenes swap back and forth from one another with no sense of place or reason.  An early murder barely registers due to a lack of suspenseful music or any pace.  This is one badly constructed horror movie.  Not once does it generate any scares. So if it fails here, does it work as a comedy?  Sadly it doesn’t raise anything close to a smile.  The performances are uniformly terrible.  Only Steven Mackintosh (THE HOUSE OF AMERICA) who pops up in a really small role puts any effort in as a red herring with a  flawless Welsh accent. He’s actually from Cambridge in real life. Which is more than be said for a beyond pointless extended cameo by Jamie’s dad, Ray Winstone (FATHERS OF GIRLS).  His inexplicably bad West Country accent renders an anecdote about a renegade stag near incomprehensible and doubly stupid.   I can’t think of a single reason to recommend this slice of wack horror -comedy. It made me wish that the psycho-farmer from Devil’s Bridge would stop by a put an end to everyone but he never did. Think I’ll stop here. G’nite.

2.5 out of 10 – Badly paced, not scary, not funny, utterly derivative of films that effortly out-class this Wales-set piece of emo-crap.  Avoid boredom. I’d sooner file my tax return than see stuff this creatively dead. Sucks so well it’d make Monica Lewinski jealous.

NOW READ JOE PESCI II’S REALLY GROTESQUE REVIEW BELOW. DARE YOU READ HIS SCRIBBLINGS BELOW THE HAIRY TRAPDOOR?

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “ELFIE HOPKINS

  1. At some early point in the creative process, this must have looked amazing. And, for those with an eye for quirk, this still looks like it could be. Alas, by the time the film has finally played its course one can only look at the credits and wonder how exactly it all went so horribly wrong.

    Even from the outset ELFIE HOPKINS is not a film for all tastes. But, and this is the important bit, it fails to hit its targets. Presumably this is meant to be a horror-thriller with a heavy dose of black comedy in the style of some sort of twisted fairy-tale. Imagine one of the more demented Brothers Grimm stories (and they can be utterly barmy and I recommend you seek out unwatered-down versions) as directed by early David Fincher after Tim Burton’s been allowed to throw in a couple of designs. Add music by a combination of Danny Elfman and Tchaikovsky and a cast including early Ingrid Bergman and 1970s Christopher Lee, and you might be approaching what the film was aiming at.

    Sadly, that is not what we get, not by a long chalk. Honestly, I really wanted to like this; even spotting Murray, Sothcott and Philips among the producers didn’t put me off. I thought, ‘ah, here is an attempt to get away from the mundane; a quirky story, quirkily told, with a hint of menace and the unknown.’ Briefly, Elfie Hopkins lives in the kind of weirdly twee village which only exists in films, and is pursuing an aimless existence, scarred by the apparent murder of her mother some years previously. She has retreated into a fantasy world in which she fancies herself as a Philip Marlowe-style detective, spending her time mildly irritating her neighbours. Then, new neighbours arrive. Our clueless heroine suspects all is not well, but is quickly seduced by their quirky charm, but eventually has to face the fact (and it’s worth pointing out that all the detective work is done by her best friend who should be her boyfriend but oh the agony, they just can’t admit it) that the new neighbours aren’t bespoke travel agents, they’re cannibals.

    Personally, I like that story. But the treatment it receives is disappointing. On the one hand, the film wallows in its quirkiness rather than letting it emerge. On the other hand, it looks and behaves like an episode of MIDSUMMER MURDERS (not a compliment). Early on it looks and feels like we’re in early 90s Channel 4 film territory (compliment). The spirits of Greenaway and whoever made films like HOUR OF THE PIG and LADDER OF SWORDS hover over the early proceedings (compliment). But sadly, the story unfolds like Enid Blyton (I mean the girl detective bit, not the cannibal bit.) (Not a compliment). (Not that I object to girl detectives at all, but the psychology here, and the actual detecting that goes on – peeking through windows for example, aren’t exactly sophisticated) (Actually, looking through the window is just about the only method of detection on offer, apart from looking on the internet of course). And any element of mystery isn’t helped by having a massive spoiler on the front cover of the DVD: ‘Who are the neighbours having for dinner?’

    It’s quite incredibly flat. The comedy is mostly laboured or unintentional (Ray Winstone as a West Country butcher with an anecdote that I suppose is meant to be the metaphorical heart of the film but isn’t, largely due to the great man’s curious accent), and the horror element is just absent (maybe they were trying to be really matter-of-fact about body parts and cannibals, but it just doesn’t work, apart from a bit with some finger food, that was a bit squirmy).Nevertheless, there is no tension and no suspense (they are different things). The plot feels like it has been lifted from a basic-plots primer (which is OK as long as you effectively disguise the fact; they fail to do so).

    Jaime Winstone, a good actress usually, is hopelessly miscast. Elfie Hopkins should probably be considerably younger, and considerably weaker and more eccentric. But with Jaime Winstone in the role you kind of assume she can handle herself and get through it all. And that’s the way she plays it. The point of her character is that she’s a dreamer, that the detective thing is a means of both escape and redemption. In Winstone’s performance it feels more like a very sensible career choice, which means that her hopelessness at it is more puzzling and annoying than amusing and endearing. And unfortunately the character is so annoying that you quite take the cannibals’ side as they’re forever trying to usher/throw her out of the house as she barges in yet again with some unfounded cannibalism-related accusation.

    Aneurin Barnard rightly smiles weakly as the weak should-be boyfriend who does all the work. The rest of the cast just turn up and get slaughtered, or, worse, forgotten about (poor Steven Mackintosh). The cannibals themselves are good when in their ‘normal neighbours’ mode, Rupert Evans in particular. But they don’t make the transition to cannibal particularly interesting. I apologise now for the following pun, but the cast just don’t have anything to get their teeth into. The big showdown in which the village is effectively massacred, goes for nothing.

    It feels like it’s adapted from a children’s novel, which is OK in itself, but the film-makers don’t really know where to pitch the film. It lacks the absurdity of Roald Dahl, the bad taste of BAD TASTE, the scariness of any film you’ve ever been scared by; you get the idea. It’s not a hopeless film by any means, but it is badly misjudged throughout; it’s like a draft of a film which might one day be really good. Remake anybody?

    By the way, if in spite of my incisive review you feel the urge to buy the DVD, take a look at the short film LITTLE MUNCHKIN; that’s much better.

    2.5 out of 10 – Joe Pesci II

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