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The Babadook

Review #245, Movie #316

Year Of Release

Jennifer Kent

Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere

Jennifer Kent

Jed Kurzel

Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Ben Winspear

Amelia Vanek, a Widower and Mother, has been spending the past 6 years raising her Son Samuel by herself. Amelia has struggled long and hard raising her boy but like many a single parent before her, she has coped rather well.
Samuel though is a very different boy and has what seems to be a highly active imagination, some kind of ADHD and is also what seems to be a technical whizz and tends to build weapons out of wood and elastic bands, string, cricket balls, and anything else he gets his hands on. Samuel’s behaviour also causes trouble at school and Amelia removes him from class due to what she perceives as a lack of understanding by the school board.

However, a book called Mister Babadook appears out of nowhere in Samuel’s room and she reads it to him as a bedtime story. The book however is darker than she realised once she’s already halfway through it, and it scares Samuel to the point he fixates on it relentlessly, eventually blaming “Mister Babadook” for his own behaviour.
The book is dark enough too that it even scares Amelia.

And as Samuel’s lack of sleeping and erratic behaviour take its toll on Amelia, causing her too to miss sleep and eventually lose her job… she too starts to see Mister Babadook.

Simply astounding.

Low budget (there’s only really two people in this film), and filmed primarily in one location… the Babadook is a masterclass in how to stage a psychological horror movie.

This film is incredibly unnerving to watch, there are many, many scenes throughout which sent shivers down my spine… and some of those scenes weren’t even the usual atmospheric spooky set-ups either. They were mundane scenes, given their gravitas by Essie Davis (Amelia) and the varying ways she reacts to things around her. The spooky scenes, every one of them, put me on edge. It’s very well crafted.
Horror movies, psychological or not, don’t tend to make me feel uncomfortable or, well, scared… and I mean at all… but wow, The Babadook is incredibly intense in its delivery of shocks and some occasionally generic spooky scenes, all held together by the fantastic photography and, well, simply, its lack of soundtrack.

The drab and dreary surroundings of the house also make for a great backdrop with the strange occurrences that are happening.

What’s also highly apparent with the movie as it progresses is the change in character that Amelia and Samuel go through. It’s as though their roles actually switch half way through and you wonder if these things are really happening, or if Amelia’s descent into madness is making her imagine it all.

Either way, I had to keep pausing this movie to take a breath, no joke.

And then… there’s that ending.

Essie Davis plays Amelia, with Noah Wiseman as Samuel. I’m not familiar with other work from either of these two actors…
Davis is immense in this movie. She starts out as a stressed single Mother, and falls gradually, and scarily, into the realms of psychopathy. Davis is incredibly realistic throughout too and never gets hammy or camp with it either. Her introduction is also perfectly played too, as she manages to get the audience on-side with her genuine personality and makes us care about her, and even sympathise with her.
Wiseman too manages to do this, but in reverse. As I said, the two roles sort of switch as the movie goes on. Wiseman manages to portray the kind of kid that most would walk away from or even hate to be around, and then he becomes someone you want to help and protect. Wiseman, for such a young age, rocks this role. He also plays the scarier scenes perfectly. I doubt any other young actor would be able to pull of such a layered role to be totally honest.

The rest of the cast are really non-characters though. They appear for a couple brief scenes and are never really seen again. This movie is all about Mother and Son Amelia and Samuel.
The rest of the cast though work, and are believable.

The effects of this movie are all based really around the photography and lighting, there’s little in the way of actual effects exactly.
There are a few scenes with the odd hint of CGI and some usage of what appears to be puppetry/man-in-suit but it’s really quite well rendered and pieced together.

The photography and the way the scenes are choreographed is absolutely tops though. Even in the quieter scenes I found myself watching the background, just in case something was going to happen.

All in all, unnerving, spooky, genuinely scary.
This movie is a modern masterpiece.
This truly is The Exorcist of today.

My Rating: 101%