The Babadook – 2014
Written & Directed by Jennifer Kent
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Ben Winspear
Amelia’s got a sickly, annoying kid (Wiseman) who keeps her awake at night talking about Monsters. Her husband died in an accident on the way to have that kid delivered. She (Davis) works in a thankless job taking care of the elderly. Her life is dreary and not at all fun. It seems like the perfect set up for chaos to ensue. Would she know it if she saw it?
One night, after letting her boy pick the book that they will read, he comes up with one called Mister Babadook. The book starts off nice enough, but it delves into creepville soon enough. Next thing you know the kid is wailing away and inconsolable as she reads another book trying to calm him into reading. Later, while examining the book, she finds that it has several blank pages at the end. One does not have to wonder what this portends. She rips the book up and places it in the garbage outside. One does not have to wonder whether the book will find its way back to her.
There is really no mystery to The Babadook. Anyone who has seen around 20 horror films would have seen enough of the formulas it is comprised of to piece it together. Still, Essie Davis’ performance is the right combination of sweet, insomniac lunacy along with Kent’s assured direction, one cannot help but be lulled into the cradle of misery that presents itself.
The kid is so annoying at first, it is really difficult to care if he’s being tormented or not. Later, when the mother lashes out at him, it feels genuine as she exclaims all the feelings any casual viewer would have to that point. Her misery is compounded with a mixture of dread at his behavior, repressed agony of her husband’s untimely passing and her own lack of sleep. All of this is woven in an economical and tense way. All of the chills seem genuine, even if you know they are coming.
Jennifer Kent has a lot of skill and she knows how to make a film. If she ever gets her hands on a nice budget and – more importantly – an original idea, the viewer will benefit from what she makes.
(*** out of *****)