When a new family moves in next door to teenager Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone), she quickly realises that they are not all they pretend to be. Elfie and her best friend Dylan (Aneurin Barnard) believe they are aspiring detectives, and set out to solve the mystery of the Gammon family.
Elfie Hopkins is a strange little movie. There is a great tale at the heart of it, but it so often gets bogged down with the world it has created that the movie forgets to tell the story. Jaime Winstone plays Elfie as a sort of mini hipster trapped in a world that she has created, but hates. Elfie is not a character that the audience will find it easy to warm to; she berates everyone around her for any number of slights – real or imagined – and is generally a nightmare teenager trapped in a small town. There is little redeeming about the character for much of the movie, and by the time she acts in an unselfish manner, it is far too little, too late. Elfie actually feels like Judy Moody’s older sister; she is so determined to find something to occupy her time that she goes completely out of her way to find trouble.
Aneurin Barnard is sweet as Elfie’s best friend Dylan, and Kate Magowan, Rupert Evans, Will Payne and Gwyneth Keyworth are fine as the Gammon family. It is clear that these four actors had a lot of fun playing the villains of the piece and decided to run with it, but their over the top portrayal of this odd semi Gothic family is part of the problem. Some of the performances are so heightened – perhaps in an attempt for the actors to be actually seen behind their loud and domineering costumes – that they do not fit into the world that we live in, even though we are supposed to believe that this is where they are, even in the absence of mobile phones.
The story of Elfie Hopkins takes a long time to get going, we know that Elfie does not like the family living next door to her, but she doesn’t really like anyone, so why should the audience believe the ramblings of this Nancy Drew wannabe who looks like an Urban Outfitters just vomited on her? By the time the villainy does kick into gear, the audience has lost all compassion for the central character and interest in this story at all.
Elfie Hopkins could have been a great horror/thriller with a heck of a lot of dark humour thrown in, but instead the film is over the top, but not silly enough for the audience to accept it. As well as this, the story is muddled and it is unclear as to whom the film is aimed at. Instead of a smart and slightly silly teen slasher, the audience is left with a detective story gone awry, 15 minutes of a horror movie and 3 minutes of a romance along the lines of 10 Things I Hate About You. An odd combination.
Oh, and the tagline on the poster gives everything away.