Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 33 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 6; Language 4; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
I am not a big fan of horror movies, but Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent ‘s film really got to me. Still not fully recovered from the sudden and violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is struggling to raise her unruly seven year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Since a pop-up book about a monster named The Babadook has mysterious appeared in the boy’s room, he is frightened of the monster hiding in his closet or beneath his bed. “If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook,” reads one of the lines, reads one of the lines, which turns out to be true in their case.
The boy has been expelled from school because of a powerful dart thrower he has made, and even her sister becomes fed up with him when he attacks her daughter. Deprived of sleep, the exhausted Amelia resorts to drugs to sedate the boy so she can get some rest. She tears up the book and throws it in a trashcan, but it reappears in Samuel’s room, bound together by tape. Strange phenomena continue to plague the two, until…
The filmmaker keeps us guessing whether the Babadook is real or a figment of the imagination. And if the latter, of who’s—the boy’s or the mother’s? Ms. Kent proves, in her debut film, that she can deliver the chills, but they stem from a far deeper source in the id than the run of the mill horror flick. The myth of the protective mother and her child is a basic one in our culture, and this film leads us to question it. Essie Davis is noted mainly for her many roles in Australian TV shows and films, so let’s hope that this film will be but the beginning of her appearance on American screens—and that goes for the films of Ms. Kent as well.
This review, with a set of questions, is in the Jan. 2015 issue of Visual Parables.