Saturday, 11 April 2015

April Apparitions: The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Starring:  Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, and Daniel Henshall
Running Time: 93 min

  I've been wanting to see this film for such a long time because there has been so much buzz about it but when it was in the theatres here, I had previous engagements.  However, I've heard lots of good things about it and of course, some bad, but if people talking about the film, you know that it is worth seeing.  So, I'm going to turn my lights down low and knock three times, Dook, Dook, Dook and hopefully enjoy the Babadook.

  Exhausted widowed mother, Amelia is still having bad dreams, after seven years, about losing her husband in a car accident.  She is having one of these vivid nightmares when she is woken up by her precocious and "imaginative" son, Samuel who also has trouble sleeping due to nightmares and like most 7 year olds, a belief that there is a monster in his under his bed.  Amelia ushers Sam back to his room and check for monsters, turning up nothing and then she tucks him back into bed with a kiss good night.
  The next morning, Sam has been working his home made weapons to kill the monsters in their house and when he tries to show Amelia how it works, he ends up breaking a window.  Too exhausted to get mad and knowing that they are already late for school and work, Amelia rushes Sam into the car and gets him there just in time.  However, while at work Amelia gets a call for the school and she needs to come in immediately.  When she gets to the school, she learns that Sam has brought on of his weapons to school and fired it in the schools' vicinity.  The principal and Sams' teacher, have had many talks with Samuel and now they think that he should go for professional help and they suggest taking him to see a psychiatrist.  This suggestion makes Amelia very upset and she pulls Samuel from the school and wishes them a good day.  Too make matters worse, afterwards she goes to the park with Samuel to visit her sister, Claire and her daughter and is asked if it's alright to not share Samuels' birthday with her niece.  While trying to process this information, Samuel has climbed to the top of the swing set and almost falls off.
  After such a horrible day, Amelia just wants to lie in bed and "relax" with her buzzy friend but she is interrupted again by Samuel and his fear of monsters.  She brings him back to his room and tells him to pick any book he wants and she'll read it to him.  Sam finds a mysterious book called "The Babadook", which she doesn't remember seeing before and starts to read it to her son.  The story is a nightmarish book about a ghost or demon, called the Babadook that gets into someone's house and torments the little boy.  By the end of the story, Samuel is even more of a basket case than he was when he first came in early about monster and he can't get to sleep because he is now afraid of the Babadook coming and getting him.  Good parenting Amelia.
  The next day is worse because not only has Amelia slept in and is late for work but all Samuel can think or talk about is the Babadook.  Unfortunately while at work, she gets another phone call from her sister, telling her she needs to pick up Samuel because he is scaring his cousin with Babadook stories.  She picks Samuel up and he goes into a wild tirade about the Babadook and Amelia starts to lose it, gets angry at Samuel and Samuel has some kind of seizure, which needs medical attention right away.  At the doctors, Samuel is fine but she asks for sleep medication for Samuel and the doctor tell how exhausted she is and reluctantly gives the medication to her.  She gives it to Samuel that night and it helps him sleep but she sees the Babadook in her room and it flies into her mouth!  It tastes like Babadookie, blah.  Then, she ends up saying up all night watching late night television to make sure her and Samuel are not attacked by the Babadook again.
  Over the next few days, things get weird at their house, like Amelia is seeing imaginary bugs, she sees the ghost of her late husband in the basement and her patience with Samuel is nearly completely gone.  She is very aggressive with him and borderline violent and abusive.  Samuel thinks the Babadook has got her and he just wants to save his mommy but Amelia refuses to believe in the Babadook and she spirals into a twisted state of dementia.  Has the Babadook possessed Amelia and is it slowly devouring her soul from the inside and is Samuel, the only one that can save her, or she is going through a psychotic breakdown of such immense scale that nothing can stop what seems to be the horrible inevitable? 

  This was a fantastic movie and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it for the last couple days.  In her first feature film, writer/director Jennifer Kent creates a simple and compelling story of a mother still managing with the loss of her husband after seven years, while raising uber hyper son and then dealing with a supernatural creature that may or may not be in her imagination.  Kent has written the Amelia character, portrayed phenomenally by Essie Davis ( (The Pact, The Matrix Reloaded) in such a way that most parents will understand and recognize the initial reactions to her impulsive child and feel akin to her hardships as a mother but as the movie progresses and the darkness sets in, those sympathies shift to fear for the child because she is now the one acting on the angry impulses that may or may not go through every parents head when they they are frustrated with their children but never acted upon, I hope.  Kent really nails the character and this gives the film, a terrific feeling of authenticity that these stories need to take them to the next level. 
  Also, I love "The Babadook" pop-up book and it is brilliantly crafted by Alex Juhasz.  There are two version of the book in the film and both are remarkably evil looking with some incredibly scary imagery.  The first is a basic introduction to the creature and is very creepy.  The second is a little more twisted than the first.  It is way more violent and gory than any other children's pop up book that I've ever seen.  With the exception of my upcoming children's book, "You Didn't Get Me Pony, Now Put The Lotion In the Basket: A Children's Guide to Extortion, Murder and Getting What You Want."  Still waiting for the publishers to call on that one.  Anyway, Juhasz the creator of the book, constructs these hideously awesome characters and every page is perfect mix of Dr. Seuss, the boogeyman with the look from the stranger in "London After Midnight".  Apparently, you can get the book on their Website, which would be pretty cool. 
  Which leads me to the The Babadook, which I think is a brilliant character. This thing that goes bump in the night is barely seen throughout the film and you're never quite sure if it's real or part of the Amelia's imagination.  However, it does seem like a powerful dark force and has the ability to manipulate it's victims with hallucinatory images and is able to possess people when necessary or has they made their victims weaker through stress.  I think this creature or creatures, is there more than one(?), can be utilized in various ways and if done correctly, Kent will be able to capitalize on a number of interesting sequels.

  Nonetheless, I did have some issues with this Babadook and the top of my list is the ending.  It takes, in my mind, a very unusual twist at the end that I didn't feel was quite explained properly.  It is not a typical ending and maybe because it was not what I was expecting, it might have turned me off.  However, it does kind of grow on you after a few days but I still found it weird and a little unfinished.
  Also, and this is very minor but Samuel is really really annoying at times and there were a ton of moments where I just wanted her to give him to the Babadook.  It's mostly likely that Noah Wiseman, who plays Samuel, was instructed to turn up the annoying kid level to 11, which then gives multiple reasons for Amelia to be losing her marbles.  But man, there are times in the film, when you just wanted to lock that kid in the basement with the ghost and say bon appetite.
  The last things and this is minor as well but this is a more complex horror thriller than what I think people are expecting when they go into this film.  Sure, there is a ghost/thing that may or may not be in the house trying to do harm to this family but a lot of the focus is on how the Amelia character is handling the stresses of the loss of her husband, her precocious son and how her friends and society are judging her as a mother because of her son's actions.  As more issues with her family grow, the larger the Babadook becomes and more aggressive it turns out.  All I'm saying is that this isn't a hack and slash film with a numerous body count but an interesting psychological thriller with a quite a few scares and a very cool boogeyman.

  With that said, I think this is a fantastic film and one of the better films that I've seen from last year.  Although, I didn't think that the ending was perfect, the story is still incredibly captivating and it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.  Also, it has some remarkable performances by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, who with such a limited cast, carry this terrifying film with their exceptional skills and I really like the concept and the skillfully delivery of the Babadook ghost/creature thing, I could see this film having a real cult following.  So, if you're looking for a good scare, then let this one in and you'll never get rid of the memory of the Babadook film. Sorry, my rhyming sucks. 

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