By Hazel Stabler
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a film centred around Jake, a young man who, after a tragic family incident, follows a trail of photos to the abandoned children’s home in a Welsh island
The narrative of the film is closely knit to the original story, in which Jake’s grandfather, Abraham, tells Jake stories about his childhood growing up in Nazi- ridden Poland. Jake assumes that these stories of monsters and peculiar children are fabricated lies in order to cover up the horrors of war, but is confronted by their tragic reality as he witnesses his grandfather’s death first hand.
The original novel, written by Ransom Riggs, inherits its characters and plot points from an array of peculiar photographs. These photos inhabit the children from the story, featuring floating children, a grinning boy with a mouth full of bees, masked twins posed in front of the camera, and a full collection of many more. It was these photos which drove Riggs to write Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and later, Hollow City, as Riggs first wanted to produce a picture book gone wildly and weirdly wrong. As a collector of photographs, he knew that he needed more in order to build the story into what it is today, and so he contacted collector Leonard Lightfoot and built the story from there.
The film adaptation also uses these photos, and while the visual aid isn’t necessary, it is certainly welcomed by fans of the book. Some of these photos have been re-created in order to match the characters on screen, however many elements have stayed true to the original story, giving a rustic and mysterious feel to an already weird and wonderful tale.
However, there are elements of this film that drastically turned it from a Tim Burton classic, to a classic book versus film critique. If you enter the home of peculiar children straight from the words of Riggs’ novel, you are greeted by a rich explanation of the weird and fantastical, understanding the gap between Jake and his father, and the even further gap between Abraham and his family. What follows when the book becomes a film is muddled explanation, and an awful lot of confusion. The film feels rushed and all together messy, mistreating the relationship between Jake and his family for the thrill of wild adventures that are never explained.
One thing the film does managed to convey, however, is fear, as the Hollows are truly the stuff of nightmares. Tall dark and covered in teeth, they cater to those under-bed monsters you thought you’d left at your Mum and Dad’s house when you were little. In fact, where characterisation lacks, adventure certainly provides insulation, and you do feel transported to 1943 as Jake is, in the cusp of war and turmoil both with real threats and hidden ones.
The question remains; should you go out and watch this film? The decision is up to you. Shabby story telling aside, it is certainly something worth watching, opening the doors to a new kind of story about a bereted young man and a home of strange and peculiar children. At the very least, the characters and locations will at least inspire you to head out and buy the book the very next day.