Updated: Mar 12, 2020
Review by Kelly
“A young boy tries to protect his two siblings when their new babysitter starts to reveal her psychotic nature.”
In between watching The Office for the 100th time, I randomly checked out Emelie on Netflix a few years ago when it appeared on the “Recently Added” list. I heard rumblings through the horror community that it was a really great movie and I was pleasantly surprised! So when I found it for cheap around Halloween 2018, I bought it and decided to give it another look. Emelie was directed by Michael Thelin and written by Richard Raymond and Harry Herbeck. It stars Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams, Thomas Bair, Susan Pourfar and Chris Beetem. With minimal marketing, release dates, an unknown director and writers, Emelie was almost asking to remain undiscovered which is an absolute shame.
Emelie opens with the abduction of a young woman in broad daylight, a woman to be revealed later on in the film. We then see our protagonist sitting on a front porch, waiting for someone. It shows her rubbing what looks like blood off of her shoe. Intriguing. What follows is that Emelie -- or Anna as we come to know her as -- is covering a babysitting shift for a family whose regular sitter couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, Emelie isn’t who they think she is. She is a troubled young woman looking to steal their youngest child at any cost. This is due to the sudden loss of her own child which caused a mental break, leading the film to an exciting yet unsettling conclusion.
Emelie is one of the many emerging female monsters in horror that we have come to fully embrace in the past decade. She is within the ranks of Ginger in Ginger Snaps, Lucille in Crimson Peak, the Alien in Under My Skin, Amelia in The Babadook, Jennifer in Jennifer’s Body and so many more. However, unlike many of our male monsters in horror history, we actually empathize with these women. Although they are seen as monstrous, it comes from a place of vulnerability and pain. Often, they are driven to murder and mayhem because of an underlying transgression or deeply seeded emotional break. Personally, I find these monsters much more interesting than their male counterparts.
Emelie is a single teen mom struggling to keep her and her baby afloat. One night, she falls asleep on the couch with her baby, exhausted. Sadly, Emelie accidentally suffocates her sleeping child. This leads her down a path of self-destruction as she becomes involved with a troubled man and realizes she can no longer have children of her own. This is shown through a picture storybook she has created that she reads to the youngest boy, whom she lovingly calls her “cubby”. It’s an angry image of her uterus wrapped in barbed wire. Unable to birth a new “cubby”, she is devoted to stealing one. Emelie so desperately wants her baby back and refuses to be victimized, even by her own body.
In Barbara Creed’s “The Monstrous-feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis”, she believed that the term “female monster” was just a reversal of the usual “male monster” but that it is infinitely more complex than just a basic reversal of gender. This is why she coined the term “monstrous-feminine”. She states:
“The reasons why the monstrous-feminine horrifies her audience are quite different from the reasons why the male monster horrifies his audience. A new term is needed to specify these differences. As with all other stereotypes of the feminine, from virgin to whore, she is defined in terms of her sexuality. The phrase ‘monstrous-feminine’ emphasizes the importance of gender in the construction of her monstrosity.”
Emelie can no longer have children of her own As a woman, the ability to reproduce is what is still seen as the epitome of being a woman. We are to bear children to be seen as a whole person. If physically unable to procreate, this can cause severe emotional distress on women as the societal pressure is still high to become parents. Emelie, then, is barren and will, therefore, act upon her emotions, and be seen as, a monstrous woman. Emelie is cold, calculating, and sociopathic.
There are many scenes in the movie that cause a severe sense of discomfort in the viewer; scenes that play upon our fears of femininity and sexuality, not to mention graphic violence. There is a low body count and few depictions of violence and death, but what is seen is traumatic. The acting is fantastic and the minimal score leaves the viewer to fully engage their feelings on what they are seeing, without the manipulation of the music. What Emelie lacks in straight gut-wrenching horror, it makes up for it in its psychological handling of a woman willing to do anything to have a child. I found it an incredibly effective and thrilling film. Also, props should be given to the oldest boy as his acting is great and he is onto Emelie's shenanigans early on.
Emelie completely flew under the radar for many people and I fully recommend it if you are looking for an emotionally complex story and an unnerving, refreshing take on the female monster. I welcome Emelie as a symbol of the monstrous-feminine with open arms as she is in great company.
Remember, the future of fear is female.