15th Feb2015

‘The Babadook’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinny, Benjamin Winspear | Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent


The Babadook is a fairy-tale, you could almost start explaining it with “once upon a time”…the story revolves around the relationship between Amelia (Essie Davis) a single mother and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman).  Still mourning the death of her husband who died six years previously she is left alone to deal with her son who is out of control.  One day a book appears at the house, The Babadook, proclaiming the coming of a dark character who immediately has an effect on the imaginative child.  When Amelia too begins to be haunted by Mr Babadook it’s not long before she is in a battle not only for the safety of her child, but also her sanity.

I like to think of The Babadook as a love letter to iconic movies in horror history.  It looks at what has been effective in scaring the audience and adapts it into the modern setting, even foreshadowing the use of certain styles from the past by showing constant clips of classic horror on the late night television that Amelia watches.  Some modern references don’t need this foreshadowing but are immediately recognisable to horror fans with themes from movies such as The Exorcist or The Shining confidently on display.

The Babadook is a film that for the first half at least manages to be scary, the effective use of lighting and atmosphere play with not only Amelia’s mind but also that of the audience.  As hints of Mr Babadook are put into the background of scenes we find ourselves hunting down his familiar shadow or cape, almost expecting him to jump out at us.  Essie Davis’ excellent portrayal of Amelia fully grasps the audience’s attention and puts us at edge as we feel her sanity start to crack.  The whole point is for us to question just what is real, and if what we see is all a part of a mental breakdown.  Add to this the fact that Samuel is one of the most annoying children you’ll see on screen in a long time and it’s no wonder that Amelia questions her own sanity too, but that is of course the whole point, pushing the character to her very limits.

When looking for the answer as to what The Babadook is for the audience to trust their own interpretation and take from it what they want.  For some this will leave them disappointed by what they take at face value, but this is not where the power of Mr Babadook lies.  The real story of Amelia is much more internal, with her house the place she is meant to feel safe symbolising her life and her sanity.  It is her prison in which she has locked herself up in.  If anything Mr Babadook represents loss and fear.  A dominating presence if allowed to take control, it wants to take over and push Amelia to her darkest of places.  As soon as we (and Amelia) realise just who Mr Babadook is, the power struggle is over and so is the feeling of fear, this is the point where the tone of the film takes a sharp turn.  This can disappoint some as it is at this point that the film starts to head back into more common horror film tendencies, but we still can’t help but feel impressed with what the film achieves.

In many ways The Babadook is a film that the horror genre needed.  Jennifer Kent shows that not only in her direction but her writing she knows how to scare the audience, and with actress Essie Davis we have an actress that is able to create a character that we feel pity for, but also admiration for her strength.  You can’t help but hope that this is not the last horror that Kent gifts to the fans hungry for horror.  The Babadook shows that horror can still be scary and while it may not be able to keep us afraid for the whole running time of the movie, it was never really meant to.  Easily one of the best films of 2014 The Babadook may feel over-hyped to some, but it still well worth watching as proof that horror is a genre that still has teeth.

***** 5/5

The Babadook is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from February 16th. Also check out our The Babadook Frightfest review

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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