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Movie Review: The Babadook (2014)

the Babadook poster

@TigersMS78 is very, very impressed with The Babadook so he is positively giddy with excitement with its release this week on DVD...

It has been a while since I have seen a film that was so beautifully shot, acted and directed, that this film was a horror film makes me happy, that this film was Australian makes me even happier. Jennifer Kent’s debut feature film The Babadook is phenomenal from start to finish.

The basic story of The Babadook is a single mother Amelia (Essie Davis), plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son Samuel’s (Noah Wiseman) fear of a monster lurking in the house, her son finds a book in the house called Mister Babadook and from then on she discovers a sinister presence all around her. So it sounds like a bunch of films you may have seen before but the pacing and execution in The Babadook is spot on.

Scene from The BabadookThe acting is great all round but the film is anchored by a cracker of a performance from Essie Davis. Playing the beat down but wound up Amelia, Davis’ manages to convey the frustration, the sadness and the pain of her character, all through a simple look which reminded me of a (slightly) less crazy Piper Laurie from Carrie. When Davis is required to up the ante when things get hairy, she does and switches gears seamlessly, it is some of the best acting I have seen and is definitely oner of the top performances this year in any genre. Noah Wiseman does a good job too, Samuel wouldn’t have been an easy role to play but it is a credit to Wiseman that Samuel whilst mega annoying is able to be empathised with.

The film looks beautiful too. Radel Ladczuk frames the film really well, drawing out the darkness in the shadows and considering the mostly indoor settings it works really well. The colouring in the house and throughout the film is great, big blocks of greys and blacks which help build up the atmosphere. Kent’s direction is on point too. Deftly playing tricks on the audience yet whilst keeping it far from being gimmicky. Through Kent’s direction the film builds a great deal of tension even before anything has happened on screen. It’s a great change to have a slow and deliberate camera movement in the current climate of crazy cam found footage films. That’s not to say that everything is slow, there some truly freaky scenes the give you a feeling of dread. The other very creative and very important part of the film is the book Mister Babadook created by Kent and US illiustrator Alexander Juhasz, a very creepy prop in effect but a prop that is quite central to the story.

The Babadook is very well written, all of the dialogue seems truly authentic from both adult and child alike. Kent’s writing is measured and every event happens at a precise moment, it’s a tremendous script and you can tell that she has planned this meticulously. The metaphors in the film are heavy and obvious but it isn’t an issue after all, films like Anti-Christ do the exact same thing.

A terrific slow burning, atmospheric and occasionally goose bump inducing ride into how people deal with grief, sadness and acceptance. The Babadook should be highly regarded not only as a great horror film but as an impeccable and wonderful film.

Images: Filmguide, Wikipedia, GypsyTaylor

You can purchase The Babadook from Amazon here


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