This week in movies you missed: In which I go looking for fun schlock on Netflix Instant — because it's too hot to think — and find something worse: arty schlock.
What You Missed
Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone, daughter of Ray) is not a cannibal hunter. Her title appears to have been added to the movie for U.S. video release, perhaps to hook "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans.
Elfie is a disaffected young slacker who lives with her dad and hated stepmother in a twee house in the Welsh countryside. She spends her time moping about her mom's death, pretending to be a detective, and fending off the advances of her cute friend, Dylan (Aneurin Barnard), whom she sneeringly calls a "nerd" for checking police records and other stuff that detectives might actually do.
Then a family of cannibals moves in next door.
They run a "bespoke travel agency," which gives them an excuse to whisk wealthy villagers away, never to be seen again. While the audience knows this immediately, it takes Elfie an hour of runtime to sleuth out the truth, and even longer to do anything resembling cannibal hunting.
Oh, and Ray Winstone turns up playing a butcher who tells a long story about a killer stag.
Why You Missed It
This first feature from director Ryan Andrews did not have a U.S. theatrical release.
Should You Keep Missing It?
There are movies on Instant whose titles just call to you, daring you to watch them. Hansel and Gretel Get Baked! Ghost Cat! With Ellen Page! It's gotta be good for a laugh, right? (Maybe one.)
Elfie Hopkins is a subtler case. When you start watching, you quickly see it's not a schlock film, more of a would-be quirky black comedy. It's got nice, colorful production design and an attractive setting.
With their retro garb and impeccable manners, the cannibals are entertaining in an early-Tim-Burton way, especially teen daughter Ruby (Gwyneth Keyworth, pictured), who's all trussed up in ribbons and tutus like a parody of a little girl.
A movie from the cannibal family's point of view might have been fun. But alas, instead we have Elfie as our protagonist. Elfie, who is a terrible detective and resolutely whiny and unlikable. Elfie, who spends most of the movie talking on her oh-so-cool rotary phone, rolling her eyes like Juno, while the cannibals are filling their freezer.
In short, this film suffers from the scourge of far too many indies: a fresh look combined with a stale script. Say what you will about Joss Whedon; he can write banter. These folks, not so much.
My favorite part of Elfie Hopkins was reading the British reviews. "Avoid like a stinky kipper," ordered Empire Magazine. The Observer critic said he felt tempted to change the star's name on the poster to "J'aime pas Winstone."
Verdict: Cannibalism in the Welsh countryside! Great subject. And much better done in the "Torchwood" episode "Countrycide." Find the "X-Files" episode "Our Town," and you've got a match.
Tune in next week to see if I can find schlock on Instant that's actually worth watching (if you like that kind of thing).
In Theaters This Week
At the Savoy, fest fave The Kings of Summer, about teenagers who decide to live in the woods on their own terms. At the Roxy, Much Ado About Nothing, 20 Feet From Stardom and a period piece called Copperhead.
And in wide release: Spirits freak out Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring. Seniors kick ass in Red 2. A snail goes fast in Turbo. R.I.P.D. is solving crimes involving the undead, or something.
On Video This Week
42, Evil Dead, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (yes, that's a real movie that really played in our theaters). The final season of "Damages" and the first season of "Orphan Black."