The Babadook

the-babadook-poster-review-the-babadook-2014

 

Written and Directed by …. Jennifer Kent
Music by ……. Jed Kurzel
Cinematography by….. Radek (Radoslaw) Ladczuk
Runtime 93 minutes Color
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera Arri Alexa, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses

Cast
Essie Davis … Amelia
Noah Wiseman … Samuel
Daniel Henshall … Robbie
Tim Purcell … The Babadook
Benjamin Winspear … Oskar
Hayley McElhinney … Claire

 

 

In a world where Horror films rely on blood and Boo!s to scare, Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” stands apart. “The Babadook” represents the best that horror has to offer. I was terrified to go on watching, yet could not look away. And that’s really something special. Additionally, the creature and mythology behind the Babadook was stellar; hauntingly unnatural while at the same time, remarkably plausible,
The film opens with a slow-motion car-crash, focused on the man and woman in the car. We find out that the woman, Amelia (Essie Davis) was on her way to give birth to their first child, Samuel, and that her husband did not survive. The film then jumps 6 years, Samuel is a cute, loving boy, devoted to his mother, but also plagued by a deep fear of monsters. He is particularly worried that a monster will kill his mother, and he swears he will protect them both. He builds several weapons including one that shoots metal-tipped darts, a device that he brings to school, resulting in him effectively being asked not to return. Sam is clearly a child with deep-seated fears that keep him from being able to connect with other’s his age, so he is quite alone. Each night we watch Amelia run through a pattern of checking under the bed, in his closet to show Sam that the room is free of monsters, then she reads him a bedtime story. One night Sam goes to his bookshelf and finds a new book, a pop-up book children’s book “The Babadook,” the book seems innocent, but each page gets darker and more threatening. The book’s warning not to let the Babadook in or it will never leave is at first worrisome, and then terrifying, when events foretold in the book begin to come true.

Horror has few very female directors or writers, and not surprisingly, their roles for women are typically shallow stereotypes, playing on male fantasies. I understand this stems from filmmakers identifying their target audience, and then manufacturing the product they believe those viewers want to see. This is disappointing since I have always found the horror and dark fairy tales as superb doorways leading to endless possibilities. The world of film benefits from the widest range of voices; so I was excited to see how a female writer/director would approach this genre. Jennifer Kent brought a perspective and voice that differed from the film a male director would have created. I loved the depth she brought to the real-world struggles of being a single mom, confronted with financial challenges, having to manage a school too quick to write-off her son and her own isolation, while facing the petty judgments of others. I really don’t think a male director, particularly in a horror film, would have dealt with the mother’s intentional choice to postpone romance; placing her son’s needs above her own.

This is a very scary film judged against any straight-forward horror movie, but it is also a story of the love between a mom and her child and the inner demons that we must manage. The film benefits from beautiful cinematography, and virtual master class in lighting and art design. Kent’s fairy tale monster was wholly unique and, even more difficult, truly scary.

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