Writer/director Jennifer Kent delivers the scariest movie of the year with The Babadook, a creepy Australian horror film that doesn’t rely on solely on jump-scares. The Babadook is anything but predictable, unveiling a chilling tale with emotional depth, well developed characters, and intense, heart-pounding moments of terror that make viewing it alone a risky proposition for those who believe in things that go bump in the night. It’ll also have you thinking twice about popping open a pop-up book anytime soon.
The story focuses on single mom Amelia (Essie Davis) who’s raising her young son alone following her husband’s horrific death in a car crash on the day she gave birth to their child, Samuel. Amelia still has dreams about her husband’s death while Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who never met his father, is dealing with his own horrible visions, although his have to do with monsters rather than his dead father. Samuel deeply believes in the existence of otherworldly creatures, and even fashions weapons to keep the demons at bay.
Amelia is soon drawn into Samuel’s obsession with creatures after finding a pop-up book in his room that reveals the story of Mister Babadook. Both mother and child begin hearing the hideous “Ba-Ba-Dook” whispered wherever they go, even while in the car driving home from school. The bogeyman has been let loose from the pop-up book and any and all efforts to make it go away are useless. The book can not be destroyed and it can’t be simply tossed out with the garbage: “If it’s in a word or it’s in a book, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”
The Babadook marks actress Kent’s first feature film as a writer and director, and everything about her filmmaking debut is done brilliantly. From the muted color palette to her choice on how to bring the pop-up book to life on the screen to the casting of the two key roles, all aspects of this rookie effort indicate Kent is a filmmaker to be watched. Kent doesn’t make any missteps with her first feature, crafting a film that’s reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro, David Lynch, and even a little James Wan.
A children’s pop-up book brings the Babadook to life, but there’s nothing childish about the film. Filled with scenes that will have chills running up your spine, The Babadook at its core is the story of a mother deep in mourning for her husband and a child whose presence is a constant reminder of her spouse’s death. Even before the introduction of a supernatural creature into the family’s home, there was a constant chilling presence in the house that drove a wedge between mother and child. And in a wicked twist, the arrival of the Babadook actually forced the dysfunctional family unit into seeking comfort from each other.
The Babadook is truly frightening and one of the few films released in 2014 that will have you discussing/debating its ending even days after a screening.
-By Rebecca Murray
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