How’s it going, people? It’s the Dash Man with some more Halloween goodness for all you creeps out there. You know, it’s kind of disheartening this year. I didn’t get the chance to see any horror films in theaters for the Halloween season. But, when it came time for date night, it was my girlfriend’s turn to pick the movie…I was petrified. I hate to sound callous…but this was the same woman who had me watch ‘P.S. I Love You’, ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’, ‘Twilight’, ‘Transformers 4’, and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, I got every damn right to be nervous. But, something else happened once today’s movie began…Today, I think I’ll dedicate this review to my lovely best friend. Why?
I don’t say this often, love…but you’ve proved me wrong.
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ is the 2016 adaptation of the Ransom Riggs’ 2011 dark fantasy-adventure novel of the same name, directed by Tim Burton. The film focuses on Jake Portman, who upon losing his grandfather, follows his grandfather’s clues and photographs of a mysterious woman who cares for a group of “unique” children on a Welsh island in 1943. After somehow traveling to that time period, he finds himself in the middle of a struggle between his new peculiar friends and a group of other peculiar people…with more sinister urges. As of right now, the film has grossed a little over $200 Million and has received mixed to positive reviews from critics. So, what do I think? Should I have plucked out my own eyes and fed them to a Hollow, or was this film truly…peculiar?
Now, I’ve never read this book series, so I was basically going into this movie blind. Since ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘The Twilight Saga’, and the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise are over, I was originally going to write this movie off as Warner Bros. attempt at making a new film series for what I’ve called “The Franchise War”. Of course, this was before I went and saw the film. I must say, I actually found myself invested in the film’s plot. Once again, I was never familiar with the book, so I can’t talk about whether or not the movie was faithful to the source material. However, I will say that there is an intriguing plot with a lot of imagination and isn’t afraid to be horrific at times. I knew that the film was going to be a “dark fantasy”, but there were some elements that I would actually consider a little too scary and disturbing for younger children. Monsters that resemble something out of H.P. Lovecraft or a Creepypasta, a morbid scene with a dead child, references to World War II, beating hearts used to bring things to life, people eating eyeballs…I think it’s safe to say that this demented yet fanciful world of ‘Peculiar Children’ was right up Tim Burton’s alley, but it actually caught me by surprise.
As far as the acting goes…it was pretty good. Despite the fact that they have these crazy powers, the kids in this movie acted like regular everyday kids. Of course, they all had particular character traits and quirks that come off as slightly odd, but that’s actually what makes them more identifiable. This could’ve gone a much different route and had the child characters act as if they were auditioning for an ‘X-Men’ movie, but these were actually some of the best aspects of this movie. Especially Jake(played by Asa Butterfield) and Emma Bloom(played by Ella Purnell) who probably have the most time to shine. At the same time, I would’nt have minded if we got to see more of the other children.
Then we have the adult actors. To be fair, some of the adult characters like the titular Miss Peregrine(played by Eva Green), the film’s main antagonist Mr. Barron(played by Samuel L. Jackson), and Jake’s grandfather Abe(played by Terrance Stamp) were standout performances as well. Especially from Jackson who practically never plays a character who isn’t memorable. He plays Barron as a cold, bloodthirsty mastermind, but with a sick and eccentric edge to him. Probably one of my favorite villain roles he’s ever played.
As for the rest of the adult cast…they pretty much range from unlikeable to forgettable. Not to say that the actors themselves were bad, they just could’ve been better. Especially Chris O’Dowd…you were in ‘The IT Crowd’, man! You’re normally funnier than this!
Whatever…anyway, I’ve mentioned how Tim Burton was a good choice to handle this adaptation, but what I find very interesting is that…how do I put this? It’s a Tim Burton film, but it’s also NOT a Tim Burton film. In other words, there’s hardly any of Burton’s familiar tropes like casting Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter, music from Danny Elfman, etc. At the same time, it still has that familiar style and tone that we’ve come to know and love from the eccentric director. I have to say it’s a bit of fresh air. I’m pretty sure that if Tim Burton had made this movie maybe five years ago, it might not have turned out as well as it did. At the same time, we don’t exactly get the Tim Burton we knew from the 80s and 90s. I like to think of this movie as a mixture of everything that was good about classic Burton and the everything that was good about modern-day Burton.
Granted it’s a shame I couldn’t hear new music from Danny Elfman, who always manages to come up with great scores; even for Burton’s bad movies. However, the guys they did get(Mike Higham & Matthew Margeson) did a pretty exceptional job with the film’s score. In some parts of the movie, it sounded like it could’ve been a tribute to the long-time Tim Burton collaborator.
I can’t believe that I’m about to say this…I’ve waited a long time for Tim Burton to make a comeback film. I think it’s safe to say that we finally got it. I’ll be honest, ‘Peculiar Children’ is not THE best film Tim Burton has ever directed. It’s nothing compared to ‘Edward Scissorhands’, ‘Beetlejuice’, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘Ed Wood’, or even his ‘Batman’ movies. But really, I don’t even think Tim Burton could top his own classics that easily, nor do I expect him to try. I just wanted to see a good Tim Burton movie again, and that’s exactly what I got. Some of the acting and parts of the script could’ve been handled better, and I wouldn’t exactly recommend it you some younger audiences. But we still have great acting from the rest of the cast, a fantasy plot and atmosphere that perfectly bounces from horror to whimsy, and a beautifully haunting score. I may not be familiar with the book, but maybe I’ll pick it up one day if the adaptation is this good. Quite the Halloween surprise from Tim Burton.
Next time, kids…It’s Request Time!
So start sending those requests in now. Any horror film, any decade, any monster! Until then, Gotta Dash!
Written by Shane Moose
A special thanks to the three big F’s in my life(Friends, Family & Fans) for helping me get this far, pushing me to go even further and for putting up with me when I try going further than that. To hell with my limitations!
Videos & Photos:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children(owned by 20th Century Fox, Chernin Entertainment, Tim Burton Productions, TSG Entertainment, Scope Pictures, St. Petersburg Clearwater Film Commission & Ingeniøus)
The IT Crowd(owned by FremantleMedia & Channel 4)
Blade(owned by New Line Cinema, Marvel Entertainment, Amen Ra Films & Imaginary Forces)