The Babadook (15)



Horror (2014)
94mins Australia

Starring: Essie Davies, Daniel Henshall, Benjamin Winspear, Noah Wiseman
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer(s): Jennifer Kent
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Seven years after the death of her husband, care home worker Amelia is still haunted by memories of her beloved. Her young son Samuel, who is exhibiting the signs of ADHD, shares her sense of loss. The energetic tyke interrupts his mother's sleep patterns with claims of monsters in his room. Amelia attempts to lull the boy back to sleep with a bedtime story. One particular book, a gothic pop-up entitled Mister Babadook, sends a chill through mother and son, and Samuel senses a ghoulish presence.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Babadook (15)

Children's literature is littered with murder, suffering and diabolical villains. Age-old fairytales feature a wolf devouring a helpless grandmother, ugly sisters hacking off toes and heels to squeeze their feet into a glass slipper, a mermaid enduring the pain of walking on knives and a witch fattening up siblings to roast in her oven. Roald Dahl unleashed grotesques including Miss Trunchbull, The Twits and the Grand High Witch, while Harry Potter met his match in devilish Lord Voldemort. The Babadook joins this illustrious list...

The Babadook. Copyright: Icon Film Distribution. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman in The Babadook, directed nby Jenny Kent. Copyright: Icon Film Distribution All Rights Reserved. The titular boogeyman of Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent's debut feature is a menacing figure in a top hat and black cloak, who stalks the pages of a children's pop-up book and slowly manifests in the real world. A nerve-frayed mother is driven to the brink of infanticide by this hideously gnarled spectre while her hyperactive son faces the insidious threat with a cleverly handmade dart gun and portable catapult. Perfect bedtime reading for those of a nervous disposition.

Seven years after the death of her husband (Benjamin Winspear), care home worker Amelia (Essie Davis) is still haunted by memories of her beloved. She politely rebuffs advances from work colleague Robbie (Daniel Henshall) and weathers pity and sarcasm from her unsympathetic sister, Claire (Hayley McElhinney). The only person who shares Amelia's sense of loss is her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who is exhibiting the signs of ADHD. The energetic tyke interrupts his mother's sleep patterns with claims of monsters in his room, which turn out to be wild childish fantasies. Each night, an exhausted Amelia lulls her boy back to sleep with a bedtime story. One particular book, a gothic pop-up entitled Mister Babadook, sends a chill through mother and son, and Samuel senses a ghoulish presence. "Do you want to die?!" the boy asks his mother, warning her to beware The Babadook. She ignores his pleas and slowly, Amelia's mental state unravels, causing deep concern for elderly next-door neighbour Mrs Roach (Barbara West) and social services.

The Babadook is an impressive debut from Kent, drawing emotional power from the strong performances of Davis and Wiseman, who gel perfectly. The writer-director conjures some genuinely unsettling scenes of domestic disturbance and sensibly keeps the clawed antagonist off screen for the best part of an hour, hinting at unspeakable horrors that lurk in shadowy corners and beneath beds. Once The Babadook slinks into the light and announces it presence with a death rattle growl, the film loses its power to shock and any feelings of skin-crawling dread are reduced to an itch. Hardcore horror fans will find it a tad lightweight but for scaredy cats like us, Kent's descent into the darkness is definitely worth a scratch.

- Kim Hu

The Babadook. Copyright: Icon Film Distribution. All Rights Reserved. Caption: Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman in The Babadook, directed nby Jenny Kent. Copyright: Icon Film Distribution All Rights Reserved.


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