The Babadook

IMG_1797.JPG

Director: Jennifer Kent.
Screenplay: Jennifer Kent.
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell, Barbara West, Hayley McElhinney, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Tiffany Adamek, Adam Morgan.

“If it’s in a word or it’s in a book, you can’t get rid of the Babadook”

By now, most people will be aware of the Kickstarter project where people raise funds to get their projects of the ground. There have already been some notable films that have reached their goal in Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars movie and Jeremy Saulnier’s marvellous Blue Ruin. Well, director Jennifer Kent has managed to do it again by raising $30,000 to add to her modest budget and make a feature length film of her 2005 short Monster. Most of these funds were channeled towards the art department and with the evidence onscreen, it’s money well spent.

IMG_1817-0.JPG

Single, widowed mother Amelia (Essie Davis) tries her best to manage her imaginative six year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who has a strong belief in monsters. One evening, he produces a strange children’s book called Mr. Babadook for a bedtime story. Reluctantly, Amelia reads it but it only adds to Samuel’s nightmares and his increasingly difficult behaviour. It’s not before long, however, that fear strikes and Amelia begins to share her son’s fantasy that a monster called the Bababook lurks throughout their home with no intention of leaving.

IMG_1821-0.JPG

Paedophobia is a recurring theme amongst many horror movies and has been the driving theme for such films as Richard Donner’s The Omen, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and even Lynne Ramsay’s contemporary horror/drama We Need To Talk About Kevin. It also goes without saying that the old haunted house routine has been tried and tested for generations and it’s these popular genre traits that Jennifer Kent taps into with her directorial debut. Employing a spooky tale (originating from a children’s bedtime story) with the huge responsibility and fear of parenting is a psychological device that’s entirely relatable and, for the most part, Kent is onto a winner with her concept. She captures the fear and disconnect between a struggling parent and an imaginative, problem child to great effect while still having time to utilise the genre clichรฉs of creaky doors, perceptive family pets and looming presences in the shadowy corners of the household. Kent’s vision is very effective and she’s aided precisely by cinematographer Radek Ladczuk who does a marvellous job in achieving a monochromatic palette that depicts the house as cold and empty by using washed-out colours. The two central performances by Essie Davis and young Noah Wiseman are also equally committed and deserve mention for managing to convincingly portray their afflicted characters throughout the films entirety.

IMG_1819-0.JPG

Without a doubt, it’s impressively handled. However, (and I find myself saying this often with modern horror) it fails to maintain it’s momentum. As we get closer to the revelation of The Babadook, we get further away from anything that resembles coherence or a convincing resolution. Maybe I missed the point but I was hugely disappointed in the direction the story took and I didn’t make complete sense of it. As is often the case with shorts that are fleshed out into a feature film, they have a tendency to run out of steam and I got the impression that Kent had a similar problem here. She struggled to deliver a satisfactory ending, leaving me frustrated (yet again) with a horror that had a lot of potential but, alas, suffered the same fate as so many others.

IMG_1820-0.JPG

Despite it’s lacklustre denouement, there’s no denying that this is a very accomplished debut from Jennifer Kent. Her knowledge of the genre is apparent and her ability to stage it well goes without question. I hoped for a little more towards the end but I’d imagine less critical fans of horror than myself will be far more satisfied.

IMG_0948.JPG

Mark Walker

Trivia: Director Jennifer Kent is a descendant of Australian silent film producers E.J. and Dan Carroll. The Carroll brothers produced a number of feature films in the 1920s including ‘On Our Selection’ and ‘The Blue Mountains Mystery’ with Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell.

Advertisements

53 Responses to “The Babadook”

  1. Great post, Muckers. I think I liked it a little more than you – mostly because that bastard kid freaked me out so much.

    Boat Drinks!

    Like

  2. Always enjoy reading your reviews, Mark. I’m always happy to see females taking the directorial lead and Kent seems to have done a good job, but when you have a script that’s wimpy….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Cindy. I appreciate the compliment.

      Kent does a fine job. There’s no doubt about that and Essie Davis in the lead is also very good but, like you mention, the script really let the film down overall.

      Like

  3. I totally agree with you on this. Personally, I thought it was way over hyped and thought it would have been a stronger film had Kent thrown out all the “haunted house” elements and just focused on the mother losing her mind. To me, that was where the real story was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely overhyped Ryan. Empire magazine gave it 5 stars and that raised my expectations a good bit.

      Totally agree on the angle of the mother though. Had it focused more (instead of alluding to it) on the mental health angle, it would have been a stronger film.

      I actually read your thoughts on it already but my internet connection was poor and stopped me from commenting. Your review was spot on.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. daveackackattack Says:

    I pretty much agree with you on this Mark although I think I liked it better. The ending was sort of anti climatic and I saw a lot of other films in this including We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Omen , The Shining, etc. . I really liked the performances and the art used in the book. Man that kid was creepy, wasn’t he? But of course in the best possible way.

    After seeing this I was thinking like Chekhov’s Gun principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov's_gun) if you show an animal in the first act of a horror movie you have to kill it in the third act. (The Conjuring, Fatal Attraction, We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Amityville Horror, Cape Fear, Dead Calm, etc.). Maybe they should call it Chekhov’s Dog principal.

    Like

    • I hadn’t heard of Chekhov’s gun principle before Dave but you’re spot on there. Horror more than any other genre seems to follows these rules. They set it up and they knock it down. For that reason, I find horror quite predictable and few have any real surprises anymore.

      I enjoyed this to an extent but it squandered everything that was so good about it. Still, Kent should impressive skill throughout.

      Like

      • daveackackattack Says:

        Yeah a so-so or bad ending can kill an enjoyable movie for me. Se7en was brilliant in that Fincher was able to go with that ending. In Neil Marshall’s The Descent we, in America, got the happy ending while Europe got the down (but so much better ending). In fact most of Steven King’s books don’t work for me because of the endings.

        Like

      • Thats excatly what happened to me, dave. The ending killed it. Dead in the fuckin water, man. I wasnt a fan of The Descent to be honest but i catch your drift on King’s endings too. Fincher’s Se7en is one of the few that had the guts to really go for it and, as a result, remains one of the best of its kind.

        Like

      • daveackackattack Says:

        You know Mark my favorite ending of all time is The Usual Suspects. My jaw nearly hit the floor when they pulled that reveal. Never saw it coming. It elevated what was a pretty great movie already into legendary status. I got such a rush I went to see it again the very next day. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thats one i wouldnt disagree with, Dave. I went to see that in the cinema with my dad and brother. All the way through the film, we kept wispering to each other who we thought it was and none of us were correct. When the reveal came, we laughed our fucking asses off, man. Such a twist that can even be appreciated with repeat viewings. Top drawer stuff.

        I also loved the ending to Memento. A lot more subtle but it reveals the true motivation of Leonard Selby. Seemingly an innocent striving for truth but he has his own agenda to keep him going.

        Like

      • daveackackattack Says:

        Memento was a movie you HAD to see twice.

        Like

      • Absolutely! It wasn’t entirely clear to me what his motivations were. It only became clear on repeat viewings but it’s a film that stands the test of time and the ending is just brilliant. I still think it’s Nolan’s best film.

        Like

  5. Excellent analysis my friend. However, I have seen this film get more criticism than praise from the larger horror crowd. I have seen scathing tweets denouncing the film as not a horror, but rather a “grief piece”. I encountered the film with an open mind and was for the most part, quite impressed. I like the way Kent switched the genre on its head, almost making a study of mental illness rather than what we have come to expect as horror. I found this very refreshing, and although the budget did mean the film was rather rough around the edges I left suitably impressed.

    I do agree with your point on the films conclusion or lack of one. Did she run out of ideas?

    Like

  6. Interesting review Mark, will have to see this and report back on my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Still looking very much forward to The Babadook good sir, but I think I will fall right in line with your perceptions here. So many times (modern) horrors build up quite promising things and then, like a house of cards, it all comes crumbling down with the last card to be placed perfectly. Goddamn my metaphors again.

    In other words, I feel you on the weak conclusion frustrations. It seems to happen in this genre more than most! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Like

    • Haha! You and your metaphors, man.
      This is certainly worth a look buddy but if don’t expect the modern classic that some critics have been hailing it as, then you just might enjoy it more than me. It was decent but I’m getting pretty pissed of with how horrors end these days. The endings always stink. The last good one I seen was The Orphanage. Other than that, there’s really not much to recommend.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who walked away disappointed from this one. I will say that I would love a copy of that book though.

    Like

    • Yeah, I was really enjoying it until it fell to pieces when wrapping things up. It’s definitely not as good as some critics would have is believe. True about the book, though. That was a creepy little device. Thanks for stopping by, man. Always nice to hear from new folk! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  9. Great review Mark, I’m just not into something like this ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  10. Ooohhhh, I’m scared of watching this! It looks great to me, but I can see wht you would have reservations mate.

    Like

    • It’s not actually that scary, man. Like Ryan mentioned earlier in the comments, it more of a study on grief and paranoia. It works for the most part before falling hard at the end. I’d have rated it higher if the ending was stronger.

      Like

  11. Maybe its just me, but I don’t get what everyone saw in this haha? I thought it was bloody awful. I love horror films, but I found the whole thing silly and thought the last act completely dragged.
    The book was beautifully detailed though.

    Like

  12. Great review mate. This so very nearly was brilliant but the ending let me down. Or rather the climax did when she confronted the Babadook. I didn’t mind the denouement so much, thought it was an interesting little take on the whole depression metaphor. Nearly brilliant, but not quite.

    Like

    • Cheers Chris! I think it was the climax and the denouement that let me down. It was a decent little metaphor but for me it wasn’t the payoff I was hoping for. Still, it was impressively handled and acted. Couldn’t fault that!

      Like

  13. Great work again!

    I think that I enjoyed a lot of the psychology that was going on here, and when I picked apart the story and my suspicions as to what was going on, the end fit in way better than I thought, after originally panning it. Kent did a wonderful job for her first feature length ๐Ÿ˜€

    Like

    • I totally agree that Kent done great work here and the psychology behind the story was certainly interesting, but it just didn’t deliver when it mattered for me. That being said, I’ll be interested in what Kent delivers next. She certainly has talent!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Iโ€™ve been hearing a lot of raves. Some calling it the best horror film in recent years. Youโ€™re review is lukewarm, but I must say my interest is piqued.

    Like

  15. I quite liked this film. It definitely embraced some familiar devices but I found it to be a fresh kick in the butt to a genre that is so lacking these days.

    Great review man!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: