Movie Review: The Babadook

CAST: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Hayley McElhinney, Benjamin Winspear, Cathy Adamek, Peta Shannon, Michelle Nightingale

DIRECTOR: Jennifer Kent

WRITER: Jennifer Kent

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Radek Ladczuk

Looking for the perfect gift for spiteful brats? Forget the Chucky doll, the creepiest horror film-inspired merchandise for children is a beautiful pop-up book of THE BABADOOK. Sure, the book does not come cheap but imagine the possible mischief it’ll cause. Cheap though, does not pertain to the tricks of the film, as Jennifer Kent scares up a storm in her sterling directorial debut. Utilizing a harmless object and a terrified mother-and-child as major characters, the film is not the most original. But unlike the usual horror flicks, THE BABADOOK does not depend on jump scares, does not contain idiot plots, and does not feature character ineptness. Seamless, suffocating, and spine-chilling, this psychological horror film is a fine piece of entertainment.

Budding magician and ardent make-shift toolmaker, Samuel discovers a book in his shelf called The Babadook. His still grieving mother read it to him one night and soon Mister Babadook is making his horrific presence felt inside the house. He tells his mother the monster is real but she denies its presence. She tried disposing the book but it keeps coming back until the creature overtakes her. Samuel is left to defend for himself as the mental health of his mother continues deteriorating.

Though grief is the central theme (more on this later), the film also touches on other issues like single motherhood and mental health. It is smart enough not to amble on these related topics and rather illustrates its relationship or consequences to the central theme. Kent is a confident filmmaker; so sure of her material and the genre. Superb performances too from the lead stars.

Some of the creepiest scenes, including the killing of the dog and the attempted maternal fillicide, rouse the audience into thinking if these are the manipulations of the monster or the product of imagination. The line demarcating the real and the imagined is obscure and delicate. This indistinctness, more than the monster, keeps the audience at the edge of their seats. Of course, the film reflects a deeper meaning, in this case, coping with death. Like the mother, the more a person denies the death of family member or a friend, the more it consumes the him like an insatiable monster.In hindsight, this could be the reason behind the confusing ending.

I am not fond of the conclusion; but the more I think of the death metaphor, the more it makes total sense. Death does not abandon us and its pain does not heal. Death continues to linger like a nagging doubt, like an unfinished thought, like a monster underneath the bed. 

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NOTE: MY GOAL IS TO WATCH 300 FILMS AND THE BABADOOK IS THE 4TH FILM I HAVE SEEN THIS YEAR.

MORE ON MY FILM DIARY http://letterboxd.com/jowanabueser/films/diary/

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