“…the more you deny the stronger i get“
Single mom, Amelia (Essie Davis), who plagued by the death of husband. She struggles to find compassion and understanding for her ‘difficult’ 6-year old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Sam constantly nags her about a Monster in the house, which she initially dismissed as children hyper imagination. But soon she discovers that her son is probably saying the truth afterall. (beware of mild spoiler, btw)
Atmospheric and surprisingly traditional, Babadook manage to get under my skin from the first 10 minutes of its run (i found myself trying to escape the movie auditorium after 15). The stories was established through a very effective opening, immediately immersing the audience in the gloomy world of Amelia and her son. We saw the strained relationship between her and her child that she obviously resent more than love. An ominous pop-up book of Mr Babadook mysteriously appeared when she reads to him a bed time story, which vile content traumatize the pair instantaneously (and also me as the viewer). The discoveries lead us to the second act which showcase Amelia’s descend to madness. Essie Davis flawlessly transition from the quiet matriarch to the disturbed women brimming with menace and hatred for her own son. Purely genial acting that reminds me of Véra Clouzot in Les Diaboliques. She’s the embodiment of the psycho-thriller part of the film, while the horror part were delivered through the meticulously crafted environment: the cinematographer and the bone-chilling sound mixing and score. Babadook serves not only as the monster of the film but also a representation of fear itself, and the fear is not limited to the usual context of horror film, but more as a representation of Amelia’s as well as Sam’s infestation of fear (and perhaps sadness) of their fragile mother-and-son bond.
Adapted from her 2005 short, Monster, Jennifer Kent’s first feature film that she wrote and directed, Babadook is clearly a project of passion. Despite the modest budget (some even crowdfunded through kickstarter), i think it was so well crafted. The use of limited palette give the film subtle bleakness that seemed grew a bit darker as the film progresses. Essie Davis authentic portrayal of the disturbed, emotionally drained Amelia is definitely a stand out in the film, yet young Noah Wiseman manage to deliver a worthy performance as the boy who just want to be love that works well to brought the story to live. I like how Kent included clips from older films (did i see Méliès’?), horror or otherwise, and how they carefully selected to represent the fear of the actors.
I found the film surprisingly sensitive despite its genre, i appreciate the performances and the story. It is quietly disturbing yet there’s something poetic about the ending. There’s definitely lesson to be learned there too, about the way one should (or should not) learn how to harness their feelings. I may not be well versed in the horror genre, but once in a while i found it’s fullfilling to stumble upon a gem (an indie one too!), just like The Babadook. If you are looking for a smart, well crafted films (despite the genre) The Babadook definitely worth a watch. I’m recommending it wholeheartedly :)
The Babadook is still playing at selected screens at Blitzmegaplex until August 26. Go. Watch. It. ASAP!
THE BABADOOK (2014)
GENRE Horror, Thriller
DIRECTOR Jennifer Kent | PRODUCER Jonathan Page, Michael Tear, Jan Chapman, Jeff Harrison, Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere | WRITER Jennifer Kent | MUSIC Jed Kurzel | CINEMATOGRAPHER Radek Ladczuk | EDITOR Simon Njoo | STUDIO Causeway Films | DISTRIBUTOR Cinetic Media, eOne Films International | COUNTRY Australia | RELEASE January 17, 2014 | RUNNING TIME 94 Minutes
STARRING Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
DID YOU KNOW? The storybook of Mr. Babadook was commissioned to Alexander Juhasz, an american artist whose works earn him Best Main Title Design award in 2009 Emmy for United States of Tara (see the making of here). Just like the film visual design, the book seemed to drew inspiration from german expressionism as well. Caligari immidiately came to mind when i saw the illustration.