Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Everyone knows monsters aren't real. But Jake Portman isn't so sure.
You see, Jake's grandfather, Abe Portman, used to tell him stories about monsters. Vivid stories. Scary stories. Stories that certainly seemed more real to his grandpa than most of the tall tales our elders typically tend to tell.
Jake's parents think Gramps is just losing his mind. But when the scary-story-telling elderly man ends up dead in his backyard—with his eyes nibbled out, mind you, right after Jake thinks he sees a tentacled beast fleeing the scene—Jake's more convinced than ever Abe wasn't just spinning spooky mumbo jumbo.
Maybe the monsters Abe always talked about were real. And maybe they have something to do with the mysterious island off the coast of Wales where Abe spent a formative portion of his orphaned childhood, a place the old man told his grandson he had to visit. "Go to the island," he implored Jake before he died. "I know you think I'm crazy, but the bird will tell you everything."
Nonsense, his parents say, taking him to a psychiatrist to set the misguided lad straight. But to their surprise, the affable Dr. Golan agrees with Jake that the best thing he can do is visit the island, find his grandfather's childhood residence, and put the whole fantasy of monsters and mysteries to bed once and for all.
It looks as if that's exactly what's going to happen when Jake and his father take the long trek to the island cloaked in fog and intrigue. Jake, who's exploring on his own, finds the house where his grandfather grew up … bombed beyond recognition from ordnance that fell from a German bomber in 1943.
But then Jake falls and hits his head. When he awakens, he's being carried toward a mystical tunnel of sorts back to that very day in 1943, right to the very group of peculiar children Grandpa Abe always talked about.
There's Emma Bloom, who's lighter than air, but able to control it. Olive wears gloves to protect others from the pyrotechnic powers that emanate from her hands. Millard Nullings is invisible, while Claire Densmore sports a monstrous mouth hidden by her hair in the back of her neck. Fiona Fruanfeld can make plants grow very big, very fast. Brownwyn Bruntley is incredibly strong. Hugh Apiston is filled with bees that pour forth from his mouth. Horace Somusson projects prophetic dreams. Then there are the two mask-wearing twins.
Meanwhile, moody Enoch O'Connor can reanimate disembodied organs, a power that even enables him to temporarily bring the dead back to life (like, say, Victor Bruntley, who "lives" upstairs but is mostly dead most of the time).
Then there's that bird lady: Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine. She can change into her namesake any time she chooses. But becoming a bird takes second place to her real power as one of a small group of people known as Ymbrynes: turning back time.
To protect these peculiar children, Miss Peregrine turns back the clock every single day to the beginning of Sept. 3, 1943. Doing so keeps the children safe from the world at large, living forever the same age, doing forever the same things. So you can imagine their glee (especially Emma Bloom) when a visitor from 2016 wanders into their so-called "loop." For once, there's something new, something exciting, something unpredictable.
But as Jake soon learns, Miss Peregrine winds the clock back each day to protect the children from more than just the world at large. She does it to protect them from the monsters who hunt them constantly. The monsters that Abe's grandfather told him about. The monsters that, it turns out, only Jake is able to see.
Which turns out to be pretty important, since the monsters—led by one seriously creepy white-eyed wight by the name of Mr. Barron—have followed Jake right to Miss Peregrine's peculiar home for peculiar children.
Abe's deep affection for his grandson, Jake, is the most tender element in a story that increasingly grows more grim. And it's affection that young Jake reciprocates as he trusts and believes in his grandfather even when no one else in the family does.
Miss Peregrine suggests that children with so-called "peculiar" powers have always existed, and that their difference from normal folks has always necessitated their special segregation and protection from the rest of society. Miss Peregrine, and others like her (such as Miss Avocet), tend in a parental way to the loops that they establish to keep these special kids hidden and safe.
Miss Peregrine, Miss Avocet and, eventually, Jake are willing to sacrifice their lives if necessary to protect their young charges from the clutches of Mr. Barron and his hideous hollowgasts: huge, eyeless, beasties with gaping jaws full of sharp teeth and tentacles with which to grab and entangle anyone unfortunate enough to get close to them.
It turns out that Jake's peculiar talent is his ability to see the hollowgasts, which are frighteningly invisible to everyone else. Thus, Jake has a singular role in repelling the foul creatures as the movie builds toward its final showdown between Miss Peregrine and her children and Mr. Barron and his monsters.
The world of Miss Peregrine is depicted as a fantastical parallel reality that exists amid our otherwise mundane world, yet mostly hidden away from it. It's never explicitly described in magical or spiritual terms, but Mr. Barron and his hench-monsters (who seek to eat the eyes of peculiar children in order to increase their powers and become progressively more human-looking and less beastly) definitely embody a dark form of wickedness and evil. The source of the peculiar children's powers and abilities is never identified or explained.
A boy named Horace is able to project what the film calls "prophetic dreams," which the children watch almost like movies each night.
We hear characters intone, "Thank God, "God bless him" and, "Heaven knows." The secretive tunnel that leads back in time is dubbed the "priest hole." There's talk of peculiars having been "persecuted throughout the ages."
Jake and Emma immediately have romantic chemistry (much to Enoch's jealous dismay). They eventually kiss. One scene involves the pair diving down to a sunken ship, and Emma removes her dress before they plunge in. She's wearing undergarments that cover her completely, but they're still clingy when wet.
When he wants to be completely invisible, Millard must remove all of his clothes. Jake's father says of Abe, "Me and Aunt Susie [his sister] always kind of thought he was cheating on our mom."
Mr. Barron and his hollowgasts have a penchant for victims' eyeballs. Accordingly, we glimps Abe dead on the ground with his eyeballs removed (and a bloody flashlight nearby). Young Victor's eyes have likewise been devoured. Both are shown with eyelids open, revealing gruesomely dark sockets beneath. (Authorities believe dogs likely consumed Abe's eyes, though the movie's audience knows otherwise.)
Perhaps the most grotesque scene in the film involves Mr. Barron and several other human-looking wights like him dining delightedly on a huge plate of stacked eyeballs, which we're told have all come from peculiar children. One other character eventually has his eyeballs sucked out by a hollowgast as well.
Another deeply disturbing scene involves Enoch's reanimation of creepy toy-like creatures. He puts a heart in them, which brings them to life, after which they fight to the death. One repeatedly stabs another—a battle that Enoch seems to enjoy immensely. Later, Enoch inserts a heart into dead Victor, bringing the boy momentarily back to life.
A violent act that Miss Peregrine repeats every day at the same time involves using her crossbow to shoot a hollowgast in the head as it climbs the hill toward her home. Another scene pictures a hollowgast seizing and slamming one of the children about before Jake shoots and kills it.
An intense final battle takes place between the children—who all bring their various powers to bear—and a group of wights and hollowgasts seeking to capture them. The melee takes place at an amusement park, with most of the children being in severe peril at one point or another from the monsters' assaults. Mr. Barron's face is badly scratched as well.
Jake falls, hits his head and is knocked out cold. Passing reference is made to Miss Peregrine killing police officers to protect the home's secrecy, which apparently isn't treated as a big deal since each day gets rewound and starts over.
A dining hall of a ship that's been on the bottom of the ocean for decades shows skeletons still sitting at tables.
Crude or Profane Language
One use of "g--d--n." We hear "oh my god" twice. Other vulgarities include two uses of "h---" and one of "d--ned." British obscenities include two uses of "b-llocks" and one of "buggers." Other milder interjections are "bumpkis," "d-bag," "craphole," "crap," "cockamamie" and one utterance of the phrase "what the … hello."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Miss Peregrine is a colorful character in many ways, not the least of which is her penchant for smoking a large pipe.
Jake's father says of the island, "I hope there's bourbon." Later, we see that he's on his fourth beer (which, not surprisingly, precipitates an unexpected afternoon nap).
Patrons at a bar on the island drink beer. Mention is made of Abe's prescription medication.
Other Negative Elements
Jake's father is shown to be preoccupied with himself and mostly frustrated with his son's apparent flightiness and his apparent (from dad's uninformed point of view) inability to cope with reality. His disengagement is in marked contrast to Grandpa Abe's deep emotional and relational connection with his grandson.
Jake lies to his father about some of the things he's been doing on the island.
Bees repeatedly fly out of, then back into, Hugh's mouth.
In many ways, director Tim Burton's big-screen take on author Ransom Riggs 2011 book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, is a lot like most other young adult fantasies you might think of. There's good battling evil. There are monsters and heroes. There are wise, shepherding adults and equally wicked ones. There are adolescents discovering their identities and abilities for the first time and putting them to good use. There are magical realities posited but never explained, a narrative framework we're intended to enter into without thinking about too much.
In all those ways, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children feels pretty familiar.
That said, I'd also like to suggest that Tim Burton's infatuation with the macabre and the grim is very much present here. We have a youngster reanimate toys with disembodied organs just to watch them fight each other to the death. We have villains feasting on piles of children's eyeballs. We have a beloved grandfather whose own eyes go chillingly missing.
In these ways, this movie deviates from the typical young-adult fantasy formula by adding a disquieting and disturbing dose of horror-movie imagery and ideas. It's a thematic element that left me feeling glad to leave Miss Peregrine's home behind when the credits finally rolled after two hours and eight minutes of this heroic-yet-horrific story—one that I think could definitely give younger viewers the same kind of nightmares that Jake himself has in this consistently dark story.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Eva Green as Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine; Asa Butterfield as Jake Portman; Terence Stamp as Abe Portman; Chris O'Dowd as Franklin Portman; Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Barron; Judi Dench as Miss Avocet; Rupert Everett as the Ornithologist; Allison Janney as Dr. Golan; Ella Purnell as Emma Bloom; Finlay MacMillan as Enoch O'Conner; Lauren McCrostie as Olive Abroholos Elephanta; Hayden Keeler-Stone as Horace Somnusson; Georgia Pemberton as Fiona Fruanfeld; Milo Parker as Hugh Apiston; Raffiella Chapman as Claire Densmore; Pixie Davies as Bronwyn Bruntley; Joseph Odwell Masked Twin #1; Thomas Odwell as Masked Twin #2; Cameron King as Millard Nullings; Louis Davison as Victor Bruntley
Tim Burton ( Big Eyes, Frankenweenie, Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street , Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow)
20th Century Fox
September 30, 2016
December 13, 2016