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Parents contemplating hiring an unfamiliar babysitter for their children would be well advised to avoid Michael Thelin‘s low-budget thriller about a psychotic young woman put in charge of three youngsters by their suburban parents. Delivering some genuinely creepy slow-burn moments before devolving into baroque excess, Emelie delivers a nasty twist on an all-too-common scenario. The film recently received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
When the Thompson family’s regular babysitter, Maggie, becomes unavailable, parents Dan (Chris Beetem) and Joyce (Susan Pourfar) hire her friend Anna (Sarah Bolger) to oversee their brood while they enjoy a leisurely anniversary dinner.
At first Anna seems like a real find, entrancing the children with her philosophy about the “superpower” of pretending and allowing them far more latitude than their usual sitter. But it isn’t long before her behavior becomes more than a little disturbing, beginning when she casually asks the oldest child, Jacob (Joshua Rush) to fetch a tampon while she sits in front of him on the toilet.
Things get more twisted from there, especially when Anna forces young Sally (Carly Adams) to watch her beloved pet hamster be devoured by a snake. She’s soon allowing them to play with a loaded gun and showing them a homemade sex tape. Jacob becomes increasingly suspicious, especially when he discovers a driver’s license revealing that their sitter’s name is actually Emelie.
These intense moments are interwoven with scenes featuring the parents casually enjoying their dinner and discussing such matters as Jacob’s precocious tendencies.
“He’s my baby,” Joyce comments, to which Dan replies, “Well, your baby has a pretty interesting browsing history.”
Things come to a head with the surprise arrival of Maggie (Elizabeth Jayne), which makes Emelie reveal the violent lengths to which she’ll go to ensure that her wicked plan doesn’t get interrupted.
Carefully withholding the malicious central character’s motivations, the screenplay by Richard Raymond Harry Herbeck goes awry when it injects a mysterious other character into the proceedings, hinting at some sort of conspiracy that never feels credible.
But until then the film is genuinely unsettling, tapping into any parents’ worst nightmares about leaving their children attended by someone they don’t really know. Thelin infuses the film’s brief running time with a real tension, aided by Bolger’s unsettling turn in the title role and the believably naturalistic performances by the child actors.
Appropriately being showcased in the festival’s “Midnight” section, Emelie serves up satisfying B-movie scares.
Production: Uncorked Productions, Sandbar Pictures, Abandon Features
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams, Thomas Bair, Susan Pourfar, Chris Beetem
Director: Michael Thelin
Screenplay: Richard Raymond Harry Herbeck
Producer: Andrew D. Corkin
Executive producers: Lizzie Friedman, Karen Lauder, Greg Little, Robert Beaumont, Elizabeth Stillwell, Roxanne Fie Anderson
Director of photography: Luca Del Puppo
Production designer: Lisa Myers
Editor: Eric Nagy
Costume designer: David Tabbert
Composer: Philip Mossman
Casting: Sig De Miguel, Stephen Vincent
Not rated, 80 minutes
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