REVIEWS Miss PEREGRINE
…And Her Very long title. You might know it. Here’s our review.
Watching Miss Peregrine’s sepia-tinged credit sequence, featuring books, files, maps and extremely creepy photographs, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve accidentally walked into a found footage scare flick, or the new season of American Horror Story.
Over the next 10 minutes, you’ll see nothing to shake that feeling. The opening moments of Tim Burton’s latest kids’ movie feature what appears to be a ghost, a monster, a bloodcovered torch, a misty forest and the best jump scare this side of the new Blair Witch movie. It’s shot like he’s decided to remake Sleepy Hollow without telling anyone. It’s terrifying.
It’s also the darkest stretch in a film that should probably look like a Best of Burton compilation, but more often feels like nothing he’s made before. It’s a mixtape that starts with The Cure and ends with Gabber house. This seems to be the first time Burton’s had genuine fun in years.
The plot sees our hero, Jake (Asa Butterfield) embark on a journey after he’s gifted a link to his grandfather’s mysterious past. His grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) claims to have repeatedly visited a mysterious orphanage for peculiar children, telling young Jake wild tales about the residents’ supernatural powers. Following Abe’s death, Jake is sent from Florida to Wales by his psychiatrist, on a mission to find the home, and achieve closure by finding the truth behind his grandfather’s stories. But what he finds is far stranger – and more dangerous – than he could possibly imagine...
And that’s just the set up. We’ll avoid giving spoilers past these establishing scenes, as half the fun is the voyage of discovery Jake makes along the way, which features frequent twists and game-changing reveals.
The film is based on a book, by author Ransom Riggs. That was originally meant to be a collection of photographs – a picture book – only becoming a more traditional novel after a publisher wisely advised Riggs to incorporate the
Seems to be the first time Burton’s had fun in years
pictures into a narrative. That explains the opening credit sequence, and, perhaps, Burton’s interest in the project. The book’s strong visual origins, combined with its outcast fairytale plot, fit perfectly into an ouevre that includes Edward Scissorhands,
Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride. Which isn’t to say there aren’t surprises. If you told us the new Tim Burton movie would feature a brief tribute to rude Welsh rap group Goldie Lookin Chain we’d have checked your pipe for wacky baccy.
That said, it’s not perfect – or completely original. The pacing is odd, with half the runtime passing before we’re introduced to a very important character. There are a couple of very scary gore moments, more suited to a VHS horror movie. And one exposition sequence – describing gifted children with regressive genes that give them superpowers, causing them to be persecuted by ordinary members of society – reads like it was ripped right from issue one of The X-Men and glued straight into Jane Goldman’s script. Still, in the X-Men comics that speech would be accompanied by a picture of Cyclops blasting lasers from his eyeballs, or Wolverine cutting a robot in two. Here, it’s intercut with a little girl growing a giant carrot. In these circumstances any unoriginality is easy to forgive.
And any bumps in the road along the way are forgiven during an impossibly charming climax, which features one of the weirdest setpieces (containing one of the most surprising director cameos) we’ve ever seen.
When it comes to the performances, lead Asa Butterfield is compelling enough, but the real star is Jake’s love interest, Emma Bloom, whose power includes the ability to float like a kite. She’s played by Ella Purnnell, an actress whose gift is the ability to steal every scene she’s in. Purnell looks like a mini Helena Bonham Carter, so it seems that the more Burton changes, the more he stays the same. On the strength of this fun film, we’re not complaining.
The shadow cabinet was ready for anything.
Beryl needed more practice at praying.