Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Film Review: The Babadook



The Babadook is a critically-acclaimed Australian horror film from first time director Jennifer Kent. Joint winner of the 2015 AACTA Award for Best Film (alongside The Water Diviner), The Babadook is a sublime, terrifying and spine-tingling film that'll leave you shaking.

The Babadook follows Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow and single mother struggling with depression and isolation, and her 6-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman).

When Sam finds a creepy pop-up book on his shelf entitled 'The Babadook', and insists his mother read it to him to help him sleep, he starts envisioning a monstrous creature stalking him in real-life. Amelia, already a nervous wreck, dismisses his fears as trivial - after all, all children fear the monster underneath their bed at some point in their childhood.

However, Samuel's visions become increasingly real and begin to seep into Amelia's reality too. The book has a hold on them and soon Amelia begins to spiral even further into the dark recesses of her mind, a place only occupied by grief, loneliness, regret and terror.

It's worth mentioning before I go any further that horror is not my thing. Not by a long-shot. I really dislike the genre and think that, generally, the kind of horror films that we see today are populated with nothing but weak characters, cheap jump scares and sickening gore that discards true suspense and tension.

What drew me to this film has been near-universal acclaim from critics. I haven't heard a bad word said about it anywhere, something that seems practically impossible when other mainstream horror films like Ouija, Annabelle and The Woman In Black 2 have been torn to shreds by critics.

Thankfully, this is one instance where critics and audiences will see eye-to-eye. The Babadook truly is one of the best films from 2014, and without a doubt the best Aussie film in years. I'm kind of kicking myself I didn't see it sooner - it would've ranked very highly in my Top 10 Films of 2014 list.

Where the film triumphs over more mainstream horror is in its effective creation of thick, impenetrable tension that'll make your skin crawl. Director Jennifer Kent calls upon various technical tricks to craft a dense and atmospheric film that is rich with gorgeous lighting, camerawork, cinematography, editing and practical effects.

The lighting stood out as being defining element of the film. The use of different lighting tricks is almost comparable to a stage production - the darkness is deep and infinite whilst the light is sharp, piercing and confronting.

I also really liked the way in which the film utilised silence and stillness to craft this idea of tension between Amelia, Sam and the Babadook. There are no grating strings or deafening blasts of noise designed to make you shit your pants - just calm, eerie stillness that reaches out and chills you to the core. That's not to say the film doesn't know how to scream and shout - it just means that when things do come to a head at the end it actually means something.

I also liked how the film didn't plunge right into it. The first 30 minutes are all about building up the characters and their stories. Again, this means we come to care for them and understand them.

The two central performances in this film are brilliant. Essie Davis (who was nominated for Best Actress at the AACTA's) is amazing as Amelia, a dishevelled and introverted mother struggling to cope with the loss of her husband. She traverses really personal subjects such as grief, depression, survivor guilt and even borderline filicide in what is a layered and harrowing performance.

I also really liked how the monstrous Babadook is left mostly a mystery. His shadowy form and rattling breath is enough to instil fear and the film doesn't cheapen this with an underwhelming reveal at the end. At the end of the day, whether the monster is even there or not is left open to interpretation - maybe he's really just a manifestation of Amelia's grief? I'll leave it up to you to form your own conclusions.

The Verdict: 9/10


Whether you are a horror aficionado or genre sceptic, The Babadook is fully-deserving of your time. It's artistic without being superficial, dark without being depressing and scary without being sickening. Definitely check it out if you haven't already.

6 comments:

  1. Great review! I need to see this one. I keep hearing how amazing it is.

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    1. Thanks mate :) Don't forget to add it to the watchlist! :)

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  2. Great review. One of my favorite horror films in recent years.

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    1. Likewise! Although, this is one of maybe three horror films I've seen in recent years so I can't really say much haha ;)

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  3. Man, the kid in this is creepy as Hell. Poor little bastard.

    I agree 100% about the atmosphere. It was hard to look at, it was so suffocating at times, but inherently beautiful, too. I wanted to make like the mom and pull the covers over my eyes. Good thing I didn't.

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    1. You just know after like two seconds that something isn't right with that little weirdo. What a creeper...

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