Peculiar and Burton nearly always go hand in hand. Look back to Edward Scissorhands, and Corpse Bride even; the man’s work is astonishingly bizarre and after a few near misses down the rabbit hole, his latest venture brings together all the best bits and adds a certain flavour to his labour.
Based on Ranson Riggs novel of the same title and scripted by the skilfully sharp Jane Goldman; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a visually pleasing adventure with an ominous undertone. This is what both pleasant dreams and frightening nightmares are made of. Take a combination of such thoughts, add children with special powers and the silver screens old favourite of playing with time; a quirky and imperfect story much like the characters that reside in this universe emerges. After the mysterious death of his grandfather, Jake follows the stories he was enchanted by as a child and happens to stumble upon an Orphanage homing some very special, yet peculiar children. Run by the spectacular, peculiar in every way Miss Peregrine, who can transform into a Peregrine Falcon (naturally) and has the ability to conserve time, she creates a Groundhog Day style loop in 1943 to ensure her children are safe from dark forces and to avoid the inevitable; being bombed by the Germans.
As the story unfolds, monstrous forces headed up my crazy scientist Barron seek the answer to immortality, hunting down every peculiar in their way (and eating copious amounts of eyeballs). When Jake finds out he has his own peculiarity, joining forces and fighting off the Hollows becomes his main task. That and falling hopelessly for the lovely Emma, who literally floats without her lead boots on.
The effects were simply breath-taking, giving such oddities the dark, Gothic tone it encompasses. The 3D is barely noticeable enhancing the viewing experience – yet this type of story would have been just as effective in 2D. The disturbingly creepy beasts are a cocktail of the recent Stranger Things and everyone’s favourite Jack Skellington, pin-striped suit and all. Above all else, they are enough to scare adults, never mind wee ones.
Eva Green fits the Burton bill; fluttering, almost gliding but with sheer purpose as her Peregrine Flacon through this tale. The cast of unknown, young actors hit all the right notes. Adorable and scary all at once. One has to mention the creepy twins who harbour a gift much like the weeping Angels for Doctor Who. Asa Butterfield plays adolescent Jake with enough determination and nervousness to make utterly believable, whilst Ella Purnell brings a doe eyed charm and some boots every punk rocker is sure to want to her floating, air manipulating Emma. Samuel L Jackson I here for one reason, hilarity. Basically playing his character from Kingsman The Secret Service; replacing the baseball cap with grey hair and world domination with the desire for immortality and there you have it. By the by his megalomaniac Barron serves a purpose and helps this reach its climax. On a side note – it’s rather hard not to see the late Christopher Lee in the role of the Grandfather, yet Terrance Stamp does an impeccable job considering the boots he had to fill.
Unfortunately, this becomes a tad sugar coated at times which in turn, allows an air of predictability to seep in. After the formulaic introduction of characters, we quickly realise what’s going to happen; the evil things come and the kids fight them off using their peculiar powers. The main captive audience, children, won’t notice it as much but a less conventional approach would have kept cheesy moments under lock and key. Having said that Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children is a touchingly crafted mutant-esque tale with a terrifyingly imaginative texture.
Underneath it all, a sweet coming of age story simmers giving the now deep voiced Butterfield some much needed manhood. Look past the girl with teeth in the back of her head, the boy with bees flying out of his mouth and allow the Burton we all know and strange wonderment to consume you.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!