“This is an absolute must-see for any horror fan!”
It is pretty much the same every year – Halloween approaches and the usual swathe of uninspiring cookie cutter dross gets a cinema release and movie goers see them in their droves in lieu of any decent horror films to watch (see Annabelle for this year’s ‘should have gone straight to DVD’ big Halloween release). Thankfully though this year also sees the release of a genuinely great horror film that people would be much wiser spending their time and money going to see, and that film is the Australian chiller The Babadook.
Having deservedly made waves on festival circuits around the world, The Babadook tells the tale of single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) who, six years after losing her husband in a car crash while being driven to hospital to give birth to their child, still struggles to raise Sam (Noah Wiseman), the troubled son that she both loves and resents. While trying to deal with his constant nightmares, his increasingly violent behavioural problems, and the painful reminders of the past that are being thrown up by his approaching birthday, Amelia is close to breaking point. When a disturbing children’s pop-up book titled Mister Babadook mysteriously appears in the house however, her problems with Sam take a dramatic turn for the worse as he becomes convinced that the monstrous entity from the book is now invading the house.
With so many carbon copy horror movies being churned out that not only utterly fail to deliver on any promise of chills, but also bring nothing remotely new to the table, it is such a rare joy when one as effective and interesting as this comes along. Wonderfully realised by writer/director Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is at its most basic level a play on a classic monster-in-the-closet tales, but more importantly it is an examination of the effects of loss, the inability to let go of grief and the mental sickness that this can bring about. While bringing to mind the supernatural menace of J-horror greats such as Ju-on: The Grudge, it certainly delivers on the scare front, but it is with its deep-rooted psychological terror, at times reminiscent of The Shining, that it truly delivers – the film’s long lasting horror originating from the time Kent takes to explore the strained, grief-ridden relationship between Amelia and the son that she tries so hard not to resent. Essie Davis is quite superb as Amelia as she gives a massive performance that sees her negotiate the journey from sweet, caring mother to sleep-deprived woman teetering on the edge of a psychotic breakdown with no small amount of aplomb. You can almost see the emotional screws slowly loosen on Amelia’s psyche at points, with a performance that by rights should see the Tasmanian actress become a household name. This would be for nothing however if the role of the young boy had been be poorly cast, but Wiseman does remarkably well as the troubled Sam, the role requiring him to hold his own against the powerful performance of Davis – a task that would be a big ask from anyone – and so it is all the more impressive here for being delivered by a boy so young.
With its Aussie sensibilities and dark humour writ large throughout, The Babadook should perhaps be applauded more than anything for doing something that little bit different to the typical by-the-numbers horror movie that Hollywood seems so fond of churning out these days. Thoughtful, scary, fantastically acted and with a deeper meaning behind it than it may first appear, this is an absolute must-see for any horror fan.
Director: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Running time: 93 minutes
Release date: 24 October 2014
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