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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (3D) (DQ)


Stars: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L Jackson, Chris O'Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Kim Dickens, O-Lan Jones, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Georgia Pemberton, Milo Parker

Director: Tim Burton

Director Burton would seem to be a perfect fit for an adaptation of Ransom Riggs' bizarre book, although expectations are only partially fulfilled by the results. Skirting dangerously close to a 15 certificate, this fantasy-adventure-horror will be too strong for younger children; the two at the preview were led whimpering from the cinema after the first appearance of the Hollowgasts (and more of them later).

Our hero is Jake (Butterfield), a 16-year-old from Florida who seemingly has both psychiatric problems and a weird grandfather (Stamp) desperate for the gun that Jake's father (O'Dowd) has locked away. On a visit, Jake finds grandpa's home wrecked, with the old chap eyeless and expiring in the wooded ground beyond. Jake sees an equally eyeless monster before grasping his grandfather's dying words: 'Find Emerson. Go to the island. Take the Loop. The bird will explain everything.'

Finding a postcard in the house of an island off the coast of Wales, Jake resolves to go there; his psychiatrist (Janney) thinks it a good idea, and father and son are soon on their way across the Atlantic. Once there, Jake discovers the burnt-out ruins of Miss Peregrine's eponymous home.

The next day, he follows a circuitous route through rocky caverns and comes to the school as it was in late summer 1943, just before it was destroyed by a German bomb. Here are Miss P and her 'peculiars': Emma (Purnell), who can float and has powerful lungs; a boy who has bees living inside him; a firestarter; a very strong little girl; twins wrapped head to toe in muslin for reasons which become apparent only at the climax of the film; and others - a sort of junior X-Men group.

Each day, they stop time just before the bomb drops, and so live the 3rd of September over again for ever. But the Disaffected, led by a white-eyed, shape-shifting Jackson, and their 'Hollows' are on their trail, feasting on eyeballs as they go.

Green's character should be sympathetic, but this most ferocious of actresses seems to have problems doing nice, while Jackson chews every inch of scenery in sight. Only Janney strikes just the right note as the devious shrink. The Welsh villagers are in the 'shadow of Dracula's castle' category, while the best of the rather indifferent juvenile performers is Parker, though he may be at home with bees, having played a junior apiarist in Mr Holmes.

UK's Butterfield is a serviceable lead with a strong American accent, and the final battle between peculiars, skeletons and monsters is jolly good fun in the Ray Harryhausen tradition. Creepiness, however, that frisson of unease creeping up the spine that comes in the best ghost stories, is notably missing, surprising from a director of Burton's experience in the field.

David Quinlan

UK/USA/Belgium 2016. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Technicolor.
127 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Sep 2016