Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Babadook [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Babadook [2014] (written and directed by Jennifer Kent) is by all accounts one of the best made horror movies since the turn of the 21st century.  Further, though presently unrated -- it comes from Australia -- there is NOTHING about the film (no sex/nudity, no bad language, no gore or otherwise graphic violence) that would would require an R-rating.  So this is a film that pretty much _the whole family_ can watch together ... and have the daylights scared out of them ;-).

So what's the film about?  Well part of its genius is that it's centered on a rather odd but certainly very scary _cut-out children's book_ named ... "Babadook" (pronounced ... Buh-buh-duk) after a shadowy monster who comes to children's houses, knocks on the door Buh-buh-DUK-DUK-DUK.  And if one opens the door, the monster (again shadowy / hard to see) comes in ... and ... NEVER EVER LEAVES ;-).

So ... there's this little family, really only composed of a 7-year old child Samuel (played by Noah Wiseman) and his mother Amelia (played by Essie Davis) a nurse, who (because she's a nurse) works odd hours.  The father (played by Daniel Henshell), Amelia's husband and great love of her life, who appears in the film occasionally in flashbacks and (we hope) dreams, died in a car accident 7 years before while driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to Sam.  So traumatized was Amelia by her husband's death that she's never let Sam celebrate his birthday on the day of his birth because all that she can do on that day is grieve for her lost husband (Sam's father).

Well, one would suspect that this "unresolved psychological trauma" would also impact the child and ... it's clear that it does. Sam's turning out to be one troubled / annoying kid: hyperactive, always looking for attention, constantly interrupting people, both children and adults, saying strange generally disconcerting things.

As a result, NO ONE seems to like him: In one of the early scenes in the film, Amelia's called-over to Samuel's school and told by the Principal, "Your child needs help, help that our school can not provide. We recommend that he be put in a 'special school' equipped for your child's special needs."  Even Amelia's sister (Samuel's aunt) is weary of him, telling Amelia that her daughter (Samuel's cousin) just doesn't want to play with him anymore.  Amelia, of course, sees that Sam's growing-up to be a problem child.  But she's also his mother.  What can she do...?

THINGS RISE TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL thanks to that strange children's book named "Mister Babadook" that Samuel finds in the house one day.   Soon, Samuel, already with a hyper-active imagination born certainly in part of his increasing isolation (strange restrictions put on the celebration of his birthday, less and less friends to celebrate the birthday with anyway ...), becomes ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that "The Babadook" is in their house.

Soon, he's NOT sleeping.  Then Amelia STOPS SLEEPING (How can she when her son's making all kinds of noise ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT, trying to keep awake convinced that otherwise "the Babadook" will get him?).   Then remember, Amelia's A NURSE for goodness sake.  Do you want a nurse working on you if she hasn't slept for days? ;-)  OMG ... are they all just going insane?

Much, much ensues ;-)

Honestly, this is a FANTASTIC FILM proving that one can make a _great_ "scary movie" with just a creaky house with random, quite normal stuff that one would find in any somewhat older house (remember they're living on one income) and lots and lots of shadows with _minimal_ other "special effects." It's BRILLIANT, JUST BRILLIANT ;-)
And remember, be careful if someone comes to your door at night, knocking: "Duk, Duk, Duk" ;-)


1/21/2015 - The film's already available on Amazon Instant Video for streaming for a nominal fee.

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