Horror, Reviews

The Babadook


Copyright © 2014 by IFC Films

On the day to the hospital, Oskar (Benjamin Winspear) and Amelia (Essie Davis) are involved in a car accident. Oskar is killed while Amelia survives the crash and safely delivers Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Still missing her husband, she struggles to balance work and caring for Samuel who believes there is a monster in the house. His fixation over this imaginary being is alienating him in school, his aunt’s family and own mother too. After reading a children’s book titled ‘Mister Babadook’, Amelia’s mental and physical health begins to deteriorate. It could be caused by over exhaustion from many sleepless nights or is there something more sinister at play as previously suspected by Samuel?

Making its debut screening earlier this year in the Sundance Film Festival, this Australian production has slowly been generating sustainable interest on the strength of its acting, script and reliance in shrewd camerawork rather than cheap jump scares. Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length foray behind the camera (an actor in her own right for 20 years prior), she has made a short film before, ‘Monster’ which explains the Babadook’s history and penchant for terror.

In Kent’s extension of the winged-creature inflicting pain and panic to a single mother and her child, there is very little light shed about its past and how it worms its way into their lives (or more specifically, onto the boy’s bookshelf) but that does not detract the misery the bogeyman has in store for the unlucky pair. Though the appearances are few and mostly in the shadows (a lack of funding could be one of the reasons), it only heightens Mister Babadook’s mysterious and ominous hold over Amelia’s sanity.

Is she going mad from a droning job, an extremely imaginative kid and the loss of a husband or does the Babadook really exist? Creeping up steadily and waiting to strike when she is at her most vulnerable. You are never quite sure the ambiguity but when the story draws to a close, it is clear nothing is ever purely black and white. Parenting can be arduous (as exhibited by Amelia’s desperation to keep Samuel heavily sedated that eventually leads the widow’s frail state of mind for a more ‘hands-on’ move) but what kind of task isn’t?

Mistakes and imperfections are the traits that make us human. So is accepting the darkness within ourselves and co-existing amicably with our finer qualities. It is played out in a matter-of-fact viewpoint, unbridled by meddling bigwigs, useless subplots or hanging endings. Keeping it all together is the remarkable Davis who has acted alongside with Keanu Reeves, Scarlett Johansson and Nicole Kidman embodies the complexity of a grieving wife who is still unable to move forward since the accident.

Her fragile demeanour and pale complexion outline the melancholy but they are used to great effect as her condition worsens. Holding his own, Wiseman will win viewers over as the resourceful seven-year-old with violent tendencies to protect his mother at all cost. Precocious and inventive, part of the house is transformed into a DIY land mine, the kind that will explode Kent right to the top of the Hollywood food chain. Could you get rid of the Babadook if it is already in a word or in a look? You can try…

Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: A-