RE­VIEWS Miss PERE­GRINE

…And Her Very long ti­tle. You might know it. Here’s our re­view.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Sam Ashurst

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.

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