I’ve never been one for the X-Men. Watching men with weird helmets and posh accents do mind tricks on each other has never appealed to me. Yet when I heard – all those moons ago – that Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) was helming a ‘horror’ mutants flick, it peaked my interest.
With talks of behind-the-scenes tensions, various cuts, a change of studio and multiple delays, I think no one in this world would walk into the cinema now expecting a masterpiece from The New Mutants – and they’d be right. Boone’s film feels like it’s been through the editing ringer. Focusing on a group of 5 young mutants – including a Scottish sounding Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy doing a ropey Eastern European accent – detained in a hospital in order to teach them how to ‘control’ their powers. Early signs offered promise for some legitimate scares with creaks, bumps and other horror troupes including some intriguing religious connotations involving Williams. Fleetingly these re-appear through the rest of the film to some effect, but never fully justify their existence.
The focus of the film is a huge issue, as it jumps from character to character and theme to theme. Is it trying to be a character study? A haunted house scare-fest? Or a supernatural thriller? To its credit, most of the characters peaked my interest, particularly in the case of Taylor-Joy’s Illyana, whose chequered past looked super messed up, but many a question about it are still very much left unanswered by the film’s end. The fleeting use of proper horror, with some potentially interesting new mutants, offers some potential – but it very much feels like a movie that’s gone through an edit too many times and never knows exactly what it wants.