Australian horror film The Babadook (2014) has been gaining a fair bit of attention lately. From winning acclaim at international film festivals to securing a reasonable theatrical release in its home country, which is becoming increasingly rare, this is a film that has people talking. After a slow start, I think it is fair to say that writer director Jennifer Kent’s first feature film deserves absolutely everything that is said about it (assuming they are good that is).
The film centres on a single mother Amelia, played by Essie Davis, and her son Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman. Samuel’s father died in a car accident as Amelia was being driven to the hospital to give birth to him. Things are already going pretty rubbish for the family when the boy finds a book titled “The Babadook” on the shelf to read before bed. The book is amazing by the way and if they bought it out, I would snap up a copy for a prized piece of merch. Already scared of monsters, the starkly terrifying book reduces Samuel to a bawling, inconsolable mess. From there the horror part of the story really kicks in with the usual bumps in the night and aspects of the book playing out in real life. The film is really astutely made and because the tone and pacing are both so spot on, it makes it all the more terrifying. And believe me it is terrifying. It’s a very different horror film too, with its stylish shooting style, being not at all visceral and clearly influenced by though not derivative of classic haunted house films. Thematically, this is a very dark and adult horror film. It is not just about the supernatural threat to the physical body, but it also deals with grief in a very intelligent and interesting way. It is also one of the better examinations of the relationship between a mother and her child in a horror film that has been seen for quite a while.
There is so much texture in this film. The house where a lot of the action plays out has a lot of wood and a very gothic feel to it, the soundtrack and sound design both add so much without distracting at all, whilst the heavily focused on close-ups shooting style also brings a really different vibe to the film. Essie Davis is well known to Aussie audiences for her role as Phryne Fisher in the TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. She is excellent as the 1920s sleuth in that series, but she is even better in this film. As a mother close to the edge, she totally embodies the role with her physical appearance and mannerisms. The film opens on a long close-up of her face, just being mad good at acting, and from then on you know you are in for a wonderful performance. She excels at both the grounded elements of the script, as a mother who just cannot take any more and is becoming increasingly exasperated with her son’s nightmares, and also at the scream laden supernatural aspects of it. The fact that Davis’ performance is so excellent is important because the arc of her character, her disintegration, is a very good narrative through line for the film. I was expecting Essie Davis to be as wonderful as she is, but a total surprise to me was the performance from young Noah Wiseman as Samuel. It is one of the more shocking performances from a young actor I have seen in quite a while. Part of that is because he is totally invested in the role and genuinely acting, not just playing along as himself. There are a couple of sequences where the character is putting on magic shows. And so excellent is Wiseman’s performance that he is able to act as the bad actor that the character would be… if that makes any sense. In any case, he is really good at everything, from making you believe he is an annoying brat, to a genuinely troubled kid, to mortally terrified.
I saw this film on my birthday, two beers in hand down at my local cinema. Aside from the fact it scared the shit out of me, it was a perfect present. A highly original and artistically made horror film from my home country that knocked my socks off. Here is hoping that the film is a big success and it leads to Kent being able to bring some more frightening tales to the screen. If you get the chance over the next couple of months to see it, jump at the chance.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Carrie (1974) and Patrick.
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Ahhh I’m dying to see this! You’re so lucky lol. Happy to hear you enjoyed it, now my hopes have been raised :).
Usually I am a little concerned about raising people’s hopes. But I think with this one, once you get to see it, you will be impressed.
I’ve heard of this and the reviews look great. The idea of a mother who is abhorred by her child and the desaturation of the cinematography except for the boys blue and her faded pink and the suspense–I do think I’ll give it a go. Nice review!
Yeah that is a good point re the desaturation of the cinematography Cindy. That is very prominent in the film actually. Gives it a classical feel.
I want to see this. Unfair! SO UNFAIR! COME TO CANADA Babadook! It currently has a 100% on RT and your review just pushed even further into my urges to see this. That is it…buying a plane ticket to Australia!
And we can drink beer in theaters over there? More reason to go through with this crazy plan!
Haha, yessir you can drink beer in the cinema here. Well some cinemas at least. It is pretty overpriced, but I am willing to pay a pretty big price for the joy of drinking a beer whilst watching something like The Babadook.
This sounds amazing. Brilliant write-up!
Thanks Anna. Are you going to check this one out?
Definitely! I’m not usually into too many horror films but it sounds so great.
This one sounds very good. I don’t watch much modern horror but this looks really original – I like what you say about its style harking back to traditional haunted house movies too. Looking forward to giving it a try!
I think it is well worth giving it a try, even if you are not a modern horror fan. It is a nice combination of contemporary themes and taking a lead from fantastic horror films of the past.
Excellent review Tim! I will be keeping my eyes peeled for this!
Thanks Zoe. Definitely keep an eye out for it if you can.
This sounds like it would scare the shit out of me!! Can’t wait to see it though. Fantastic review!
It certainly scared the shit out of me. Make sure you check it out if you can mate.
THis sounds like a good one! Could take some searching to find this but you make it sound more than worth the while to track it down. Great review Tim!
Thankyou sir! I would suspect this will get a reasonable release. Perhaps a limited theatre run in the states but reckon they will push it pretty hard on VOD. Will be interested to see what you think.
Where did you see this? VOD? Theater? Did you buy it from one-legged homeless guy named Bob? Where? I want to see this movie!
Haha. It got a cinema release out here in its home country. I hope you get to see it soon, it is well and truly worth a look. I assume you will be able to get it on VOD soon enough. Otherwise, hit up homeless Bob to get your hands on it.
[…] well, well. I know that I have been waiting for this since Tim reviewed it over on his site in May. It piqued my interest, so I wanted to know. Naturally, soon everyone […]