Putting a fresh spin on the classic role of the babysitter in genre cinema, Emelie is a subtle, disquieting little chiller that proves an uncomfortable watch.

And I most definitely mean that in a good way, as director Michael Thelin ratchets up the tension to unbearable, suffocating levels (check out the scene with a pet python).

A pretty simple tale on the surface, but with a whole lot going on beneath that surface, the film kicks off with an abrupt kidnapping scene, as Anna (Randi Langdon) is bundled into the back of a car on a quiet suburban street.

Turns out Anna was set to babysit later that evening for the Thompsons, a husband-and-wife who plan on heading out for an anniversary meal.

The Thompsons have three kids, and all seems fine to them when ‘Anna’ reports for duty – but the girl who has appeared on their doorstep is not her, and may have very different ideas on what she plans to do with the kids…..

There is an offbeat, creepy vibe about the film right from the off, and certainly from the moment ‘Anna’/Emelie (Sarah Bolger) appears at the family’s door.

All smiles and an easy-going nature, Bolger convinces as a straight-up, nice girl – who is eager to get the kids to push their boundaries it must be said.

But Bolger also manages to hint at flickers of malice, with an awful lot conveyed by her eyes that suggest something very different is going on internally than what is being displayed externally.

As the film progresses, those layers are slowly stripped away, and it would spoil Emelie’s slow-burning guessing game to give too much away.

Suffice to say though that Bolger is truly sensational – a riveting performance that manages to make you both fear and feel sympathy for her character, often at the same time.

The three child actors (Carly Adams, Thomas Bair and Joshua Rush) also produce sterling work, although I’m still not sure whether Rush’ desperately obnoxious Jacob was actually meant to have you rooting for Emelie or not.

The revelations eventually come, and I’ve knocked a point off due to Thelin tying up things little too neatly for my taste as the film draw to a close.

In fact, were it not for the film’s closing image I would have felt even more let down, but perhaps that is just me.

Quibbles aside, there is so much right with Emelie that I have to say it turned out to be one of my favourite films of the festival.

Quietly devastating, Emelie provides an emotional gut-punch that lives long after the credits roll.

Frightfest Presents review: Emelie
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.