Villagers beware! Lock your doors, draw your curtains and hide your cheese, because the boxtrolls are coming to get you! Or, are they? Based on the children’s book Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls follows the story of these misunderstood creatures who dwell in caves below the city and come out at night – not to steal good cheese and small children as the townsfolk have been led to believe – but to collect doodads and trinkets for their underground city. Wearing old cardboard boxes as their only form of clothing, this rather adorable and placid family of trolls has a most unlikely addition: Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), a human boy who has grown up under the care of boxtroll Fish, believing he too is a boxtroll.
But the lives of Eggs and his friends are threatened when Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) becomes obsessed with exterminating all of the boxtrolls in order to prove he is worthy of the town’s elite “white hat” title. The only way for Eggs to stop him is to prove to the rest of the town that the boxtrolls are harmless, with the assistance of a plucky, if slightly psychopathic, human girl Winnie (Elle Fanning).
Filmed using the incredible 3D stop-motion claymation from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls certainly is a feast for the eyes, but I would suggest those of a relatively ‘mature’ child audience. As someone who is well beyond the targeted age bracket, I actually found this movie to be quite disturbing and imagine I would have been terrified if I were a child watching it. Creatively, the animation is phenomenal and impossibly imaginative, but is is also at times very dark, sinister and even downright disgusting. In the same vein as children’s movies such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, parents will want to use their discretion before bringing the youngins along to the cinema. If your child scares easily, then you might want to wait a few more years before showing them this one.
It’s actually rather difficult to decide how I feel about this film. On the one hand there is some jaw-droppingly good visuals that truly helps you to appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into making a stop-motion animation. The story was engaging and even at times emotional, there are some amusing scenes (particulaly between iconic comedy duo Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as Snatcher’s henchmen), and the boxtrolls were almost too cute to handle. But at the same time I couldn’t shake this feeling of discomfort for the entire duration of the movie. It is an edgy film that may have just been taken one step too far, and if there were ever a ‘children’s horror’ genre, I think this would make the cut. I also felt some of the messages of the movie were a little muddy, and weren’t easily digestible for the target audience.
Overall, I think The Boxtrolls is definitely an experience, unlike any film I’ve seen before. It’s worth checking out just to see the animation, and perfect for those who like a movie that makes you squirm. And don’t forget to stay until the end of the credits for what was personally my favourite scene in the entire movie.
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