Scene 11 – The Babadook

This weeks movie is the first Horror that I have had a look at as part of this blog. Well…that’s not taking The Guest in account…and I really wish I could have that time back…

So not only is this the first Horror I’m looking at but it is Jennifer Kent’s feature directorial debut, and it is a rare example of a modern horror in which the filmmaker takes advantage of the many opportunities and advances that can be utilized in the genre… instead of relying on familiar tropes that condescend to the target audience, which is another reason why I don’t usually watch Horror films.  It is something about those reoccurring Horror clichés that subconsciously trigger me to turn into one of those movie viewers I hate…the constantly on the phone, thumb twitching morons!  So I am trying to watch more of this genre in hope and optimism that it is developing and not all just a cliche…and The Babadook has triggered that hope.

The plot itself uses the dark fairy tale premise as a framing device to explore philosophical issues through Amelia (Essie Davis), a widowed single mother raising troubled six-year-old Samuel (Noah Wiseman)….who I found unbelievably annoying throughout…

The story unfolds as Kent gradually takes the audience through a descent into psychological madness through Amelia’s point of view. It begins six years after the lose her husband, as she struggling to raise Samuel, whose out-of-control behavior is becoming a burden on their relationship and causes segregation between family and friends.

Like many parents, Amelia reads to Samuel at night to calm him to sleep. However, a disturbing, yet beautifully illustrated children’s storybook called Mister Babadook appears in his room one night and the lurid text complimented with creepy imagery unsettles Amelia….but she eventually gives into Samuel’s demands and continues to read the book.  Just on  cue…Samuel begins to be plagued by horrific night terrors and is immediately convinced that the Babadook is the creature he has been dreaming about. Rightfully skeptical at first….she obviously didn’t read the script, Amelia catches glimpses of the creature herself, and as Mr. Babadook’s presence begins invading their lives and becomes a possessive influence on her behavior, the spooky entity from the book becomes a terror internally and physically throughout their home.

Essie Davis goes to dark places emotionally with her performance and her physical dedication displays a wide range of talent that proves she’ll be an actress that everyone will want to keep an eye out for in the future. Wiseman deserves equal praise for his raw bursts of angst that seamlessly flows with his natural despair…although as I briefly mentioned earlier it kind of grates away at you and can be annoyance. But as a performance for a young actor as whole…it does come across authentic in the important scenes that need it.

As the film heads towards the finale, the story’s perspective unfortunately shifts and falls victim to some clichéd conventions…with an almost, “Heeere’s Johnny!”  moment in the middle of slightly bizarre chase scenario where Samuel’s reactions seem to be inspired by Kevin in Home Alone…..At this point the film spirals into a repetitive cycle unfortunately, but it is thankfully redeemed by an insightful ending that reshaped the entire idea of Mr. Babadook in a more meaningful way.

Kent is more interested in maintaining an atmosphere of dread than focusing on the usual and predictable scare tactics that genre fans might expect. One of which is the use of audio within the film…which is not only unbelievably psychological, but used so refreshingly compared to that of the standard template Horror flick.

It is quite a dent of a debut feature, even though it didn’t quite live up to its full potential…there is no doubt that there is a lot of skill and craft as filmmaker there. with its initial intellectual approach, before it all comes crashing down. But that is the sign of experience…once you have the audience, keep them there..

It is also worth noting that in the beginning, a lot of the feature was funded by Kickstarter…which just goes to show you.

The Babadook is a journey through the mental descent of hell that dares you to keep it out of your dreams after it gets inside your head.

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