Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie #324: The Babadook

The Babadook is a much-acclaimed horror film directed by Jennifer Kent and starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Barbara West, and Hayley McElhinnhey. It's gotten a hell of a lot of buzz, and it lives up to the hype. This is a recent movie, so, spoilers ahead.

Amelia (Davis) lives with her six-year-old son Sam (Wiseman) in Australia. Sam's having trouble; he fights imaginary monsters all day, to the point of building weapons to kill them, and he's having consistent behavior problems at school. Amelia is about at her wit's end; she's still coping with the loss of her husband Oskar (Benjamin Winspear), who died in a car wreck taking Amelia to the hospital to birth Sam. Now she's sleep deprived, having trouble coping with her demanding son, and barely holding on.

Sam finds a book on his shelf called Mister Babadook, but as Amelia reads it to him, it becomes clear that "the Babadook" is a monster, depicted as hiding in the closet and pouncing on the boy in the bed. Sam flips the fuck out, and thereafter becomes obsessed with the Babadook. Amelia shreds the book, but she finds it on her doorstep, whole and with new pages added, depicting her killing their dog, Sam, and herself.

Amelia becomes possessed, Sam helps her fight off the monster, and the two of them win the day with nary a (human) fatality, which is just one of the many things that makes this movie so incredible. It's scary as hell, but the Babadook doesn't kill off the nice old lady next door (West) or Amelia's friendly co-worker Robbie (Daniel Henshall) to make the point. The action is focused on them and their relationship, and it doesn't shy away from the notion that parents can be tired by, even come to resent, their difficult children.

Meanwhile, Sam is depicted perfectly as an emotionally disturbed child. It's easy to think he's traumatized by his father's death, but he never knew his father. He's just troubled, maybe mentally ill in some way, but it's hard to know and it's not especially relevant to the movie. He also loves his mother, but he's no more easy to manage because of that, and having worked with kids with very similar issues (never quite that intense, but close), I really like the portrayal. The monster, too, and the visual and (especially) sound effects are amazing and disturbing, and I really wish I'd seen this one in theaters.

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: Medium-low

Next up: Knight's Tale, A