80 min | Michael Thelin | (USA) | 2015
Emelie is a strikingly unsettling film for about the first fifty minutes. The plot is fairly simple: parents Dan and Joyce (Chris Beetem and Susan Pourfar) go out to celebrate their anniversary. Their usual babysitter has plans so they hire a girl they don’t know, albeit one vetted by friends. Unbeknownst to them, however, a couple has kidnapped the girl who was supposed to be babysitting for them and the mysterious Emelie arrives on their doorstep instead. Dan and Joyce go happily out to dinner leaving their three children Jake (11), Sally (9), and Christopher (4) in the tender care of Emelie.
Emelie proceeds to do things no parent would ever want a babysitter to do. The film is brilliant in its slow slide from the arguably “normal” toward the truly perverse. At first, Emelie just seems a vaguely anarchic force, letting the kids eat what they want, telling the two younger children, who want to play dress-up, to be creative in what they wear. She tells them that they don’t “have to be a boy or a girl. You can be anything you want to be. You just have to pretend.” Pushing the boundaries of imagination soon turns into destroying valuable things for costumes and painting on the walls. “Sometimes it’s okay to destroy things for fun,” Emelie says. Then it turns a bit more sinister: there’s a bathroom scene involving Emelie, who has her period, and the emergent adolescent, Jake (Joshua Rush). Then Emelie decides Jake’s pet python needs a treat. And then Emelie declares that it’s movie time: let’s just say no child should have to see what Jake, Sally, and Christopher see.