The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A ghastly, grotesque and gorgeous movie for children with guts

with 14 comments

I’m at a matinee screening which is supposed to be for children (7 years age limit, unless you’re in party with an adult, in which case there’s no limit at all.)

On the screen I can see how the already ugly and scary villain goes through metamorphoses due to an allergic reaction to cheese. His face is twisting and turning into a formless mass that would make Frankenstein look cute in comparison. And yet this is a mild care compared to what’s to come further on. There will be torture. There will be gruesome deaths in front of our eyes. There will be gigantic robotic death machines controlled by evil creatures.

I look around me in the cinema and every child I see looks strangely composed. No one is having a breakdown, no one is sobbing. They even seem to have forgotten about their popcorn boxes. The only sound that doesn’t come from the film is when someone leans a bit in the long direction and falls off the plastic stool they had put on top of the ordinary seat in order to see better. There’s no hysterical reaction whatsoever as far as I can see. And I think to myself: “Children these days! They’ve got guts!”

Stop motion technique
The Boxtrolls is ghastly, grotesque and gorgeously looking movie made with classical stop motion animations, made in a style that makes you think of Tim Burton or perhaps Terry Gilliam.

The story goes like this: Cheesebridge is governed by a cheese loving aristocracy. In the sewers dwells a population of a certain kind of trolls, which like to dress in empty boxes. The trolls are oppressed in the worst possible ways and there’s even an exterminator who is trying to evaporate them altogether. Among the trolls lives a human boy who is trying to save the box trolls by the help of a girl who is the daughter of one of the cheese aristocrats.

As you here it’s not terribly complicated, which is a good thing, especially for a movie aimed at children. Trying to explain the plot whispering in the ear of your clueless child is not a pleasure, neither for the child, nor for everyone around you. In this case there’s no need for explanations. We “get it”.

As opposed to many other movies for young audiences, it doesn’t have “merchandise sales” written all over it. It’s possible that some kind of toys exist, but it-s clearly not the sole purpose for making the movie. It’s not a vehicle.

Some brief final thoughts
Thumbs up: for the uninhibited use of imagination and the craftsmanship and love that has gone into the making of it. You can tell. It’s just beautiful.

Thumbs down: for watching it in Swedish with dubbed voices rather than in the original English. We did it for scheduling reasons, but I hit myself when I saw what actor voices we missed, including Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Gah! Don’t do my mistake. Watch the original.

And whatever you do, don’t miss: the delicious little extra scene that comes after the text credits. It’s worth waiting for and made me love this film even a little more.

The Boxtrolls (Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi, UK 2014) My rating: 4/5


I wasn’t the only one in the audience who watched it as an adult. I was in company with the other bloggers in the Swedish film blogging network Filmspanarna. Here’s what my fellow bloggers made of it (all in Swedish):

Fiffis filmtajm
Har du inte sett den? (blog)
Har du inte sett den? (pod)
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Written by Jessica

September 17, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in The Boxtrolls

14 Responses

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  1. Well, there are, at least in Sweden, some scary ass childrens movies. I had a lot more nightmares due to Häxorna, Ronja rövardotter, Skrotnisse and only one super mario nightmare. Guess what my parents banned ;(

    Johan Benjaminsson

    September 17, 2014 at 10:08 am

    • Heh. That’s typical. Parents have no idea of what really scares children. The scariest things I ever saw was when I caught glimpses of Ingmar Bergman movies that grown-ups watched…


      September 21, 2014 at 8:10 pm

  2. I love that The Boxtrolls dares to be such a dark movie, I love that children are allowed to be scared and I loved watching the childrens reactions at the cinema. That nervous little girl that walked back and forth on her row with her back against the screen and the girl behind me saying with a clear voice at the end: “He ate too much cheese!”


    September 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

    • Haha, that’s lovely! I didn’t see much reactions around me, but you seem to have found a more lively spot in the theatre. As long as they don’t shower me in popcorn I’m fine!


      September 21, 2014 at 8:12 pm

  3. To be honest the Swedish voices didn’t bother me, but, yes, I would have preferred the original.

    In our part of the cinema, further back, I think there was some more activities among the kids, but that added rather than took something away from the experience. One girl started crying really much during the death machine scene down underground…


    September 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    • No exactly. It was when I saw what I missed that I thought “bugger!”

      I’m not surprised that the death machine caused some stir-up…


      September 21, 2014 at 8:13 pm

  4. Good point about the feeling that it’s made for the kids’ enjoyment rather than their money. It’s refreshing.


    September 17, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    • It is! I would love to see more of that kind of childrens movies: franchise free.


      September 21, 2014 at 8:13 pm

  5. I agree with Carl! Although I can enjoy the content more in, say, a Pixar-movie it was a relief to watch something that didn’t appear on every damned thing in the sweet shop outside the theatre.


    September 17, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    • Yep. This said: Pixar has made some truly lovely movies. But I still think it’s a good sign when an animated movie doesn’t appear as Mc Donald toys.


      September 21, 2014 at 8:14 pm

  6. Nice post. I cannot wat to see this one. It has opened here in Mexico but dubbed in Spanish! AARGH!


    September 17, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    • Doh. I still think you should grab it. I saw it dubbed in Swedish and still enjoyed it a lot.


      September 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm

  7. Is it obligatory to take children, or can one, heh heh, just go on one’s own? 🙂


    September 18, 2014 at 12:31 am

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