In ELVES (Netflix), a Danish family vacations on an island that harbors a deadly secret. I ended up fairly torn by this one, as it’s an interesting story surprisingly well told, though the story it tells becomes insanely frustrating. Let me explain. Note this review is a bit spoilerly.
The family–Mom, Dad and their teenage children Kasper and Josefine–venture to a remote island, where they rented a house to spend Christmas. The locals aren’t exactly welcoming and warn them to avoid the inland road and to respect the natural environment. Of course, the family does neither, running over something on the road near an electrified fence. Angry at Mom for not allowing her to have a pet, Josefine bikes back to the spot from their cabin, discovers a wounded creature, and brings it to a barn near her family’s cabin, where she nurses it back to health.
Beyond the fence, the creatures are not happy about this, and horror ensues.
The elves themselves are fairly well done, though I found them scarier by what they did off camera than what they did on. The acting is pretty good, and the family dynamics and tension with the locals feels lived in and engaging. The horror element is fine. There is an environmental message about sustainability that is solid.
The main problem is Josefine makes maddeningly frustrating choices. It’s almost like she’s in a personal remake of Spielberg’s ET while everybody else is in a horror film. She’s a child, yes, and made a terrible mistake despite repeated warnings. Once people start getting killed, she’s confronted with the consequences of her choices, and for a short time she appears to acknowledge responsibility. But instead of changing and maturing and trying to make things right, she keeps stubbornly doubling down on the mistake regardless of the consequences, and at the end, the only regret she seems to have is she couldn’t keep her pet. This threw the entire story out of whack for me. This could have been a story about losing innocence and growing up the hard way, but instead the story winds up fighting this own message with an opposing message: Don’t grow up, act like a privileged human wrecking ball, and the grownups will take care of it.
This series has taken a lot of flak from reviewers primarily for this reason. I didn’t hate it. It has a lot of great qualities, and overall, I enjoyed it. But be warned, if you watch it, you might end up rooting for the elves.