Strange things lurk off shore in this small coastal town. Barbara (Madison Wolfe) is the self-appointed guardian keeping mile denizens at bay. Isolated, precocious and uniquely qualified, only the arrival of Sophia (Sydney Wade) and school psychologist Mrs Molle (Zoe Saldana) bring about change for this giant killer.
Films sold on their fantasy credentials are normally cut and dried. Mythical, magical and decidedly cheesy inhabit one camp, while grandiose, majestic and world building epics hide elsewhere. That this Anders Walter film sits uncomfortably in either group is testament to a movie which blindsides, confounds and surprises within its running time.
Madison Wolfe’s Barbara is a typical outsider peppered with character flaws reminiscent of The Goonies or ET with dashes of Gilliam’s Time Bandits in tone. Her pre-possession, naturalistic performance and magnetism on screen for one so young centres everything. Similar in feel to Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight contribution, it all seems slightly off kilter and removed from reality yet consistently engaging.
Giants and their role is played out subtlety as Anders spends time building character, creating dynamics and drawing the audience into this small seaside community. Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots as school psychologist and older sister respectively, provide understated support here only hinting at issues which reveal themselves later. Walters develops scenes around Barbara’s family depicting a group of people in suppressed emotional freefall. Each hiding from the other through consistent routine, emotional barriers or work. It is here in these moments that I Kill Giants best reveals itself as a Spielberg template similar to his set ups for Jaws or Close Encounters.
Adapted by Joe Kelly from his own graphic novel dialogue is sparse while the visual reveals everything. There are clues which gain clarity upon a second viewing that enrich rather than diminish this film. Relationships which seem fractious and confrontational are shown to be defence mechanisms against the fatality which looms large over these people. FX shots are used sparingly but with consideration and implemented only to propel the narrative forward. On the promotional material there are comparisons made to Harry Potter which are pure marketing. I Kill Giants is a smaller film, tackling heavy themes from an altogether different direction. This is no mere child wizard clone and feels more in keeping with a Gilliam-esque view on the world. Eccentric, emotive and highly imaginative, Walters has created something of unique beauty giving us a fresh approach to processing our grief.