Ba Ba-Ba Dook Dook DOOK!
Main Cast: Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman
Director: Jennifer Kent
Sometimes a film is just so well-made that you notice things you don’t always notice, like production, cinematography, and sound design. But with writer/director Jennifer Kent’s debut effort, The Babadook, these things are so beautifully executed, you can’t help but be enthralled by them.
The Babadook tells the story of Amelia (Essie Davis, “Game of Thrones”) and her 6-year-old son Samuel. Amelia’s husband was killed on the way to the hospital, driving this wife there to give birth to their son, and ever since, Amelia, now a single parent, has had a very difficult time raising her son. It’s not enough she’s financially responsible for him, but there’s also the emotional and mental stress that comes from being a child’s sole source. Not to mention, I got the feeling she always kind of resented Sam for being born at that moment, for putting their car in that spot at that moment, resulting in the death of her beloved.
But Sam’s not exactly helping matters. He’s constantly terrified, insists there’s a monster in his room, one he’s built weapons to combat, and he’s acting up in class. And that’s not even mentioning his screaming fits, during which I wanted to feed him to the Babadook myself. Through it all, however, Amelia does her best to soldier on, even if when Samuel says he loves her, her canned response is a simple, “Me too.” But she feeds him, she clothes him, she reads to him at night. One night in particular, she lets Sam pick the book and he saunters over with one she’s never seen before called MISTER BABADOOK.
It’s a very strange pop-up book with some pretty creepy and inappropriate illustrations for a 6-year-old trying to go to bed, and she doesn’t even get to finish the book before Sam’s screaming in her lap. Convinced the book is only going to cause more damage if Sam gets hold of it again, she tears it up and tosses it in the garbage.
The next day, the book reappears, with new pages that weren’t there before, insisting that, the more she denies the existence of the Babadook, the more real it will become.
Essie Davis’s portrayal as the put-upon and weary mother is excellent and spot-on. It’s uncommon to see the mother in a horror movie who isn’t doting constantly on their child because that’s sort of what the world expects, but Kent has turned that notion on her ear and shown the other, not so pretty, side of parenthood. Hey, we love our kids, but something we just want them to not be right in front of us, you know? And that’s an idea Kent is playing on here, one Davis brings to life and makes totally believable.
The only other major member of the cast is Noah Wiseman as Samuel, and I have to say, for the first half of the movie, man, Amelia was right on, this kid was something else. God, just for one second shut the hell up and stop your crying. But then something happened about midway, something within Samuel clicked and I fell in love with the kid. What a killer job Wiseman, also only 6 at the time, did here. He’s got something within him that can go from brash and demanding to wide-eyed and sweet on a dime. Excellent casting for both the leads here.
The production is tight and with a firm vision that is carried throughout the entire movie, helped greatly by the excellent cinematography from Radel Ladczuk, and all tied together in a chilling little bow by sound designer Frank Lipson, without whom a good 65% of this movie’s creepiness would have been lost.
I enjoyed the hell out of this movie and I’m glad I bought it so I can watch it whenever I want. I thought the climax was a little meh, but the stuff after the climax was scary and original and provided and excellent ending to an excellent movie. I’m interested to see what Kent does next. She’s definitely not a writer/director who’s trying to make the same old movies as everyone else. If The Babadook is any indication, this is a woman with purpose, who understands how theme and subtext work and isn’t afraid to use them. Great movie, great horror, highly recommended.