The final film in the What Else to Watch list following my screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock for DK Canada’s The Movie Book is this terrifying Australian film The Babaook.
A widowed mother, Ameila (Essie Davis) and her young son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman) are put through the wringer by director/writer Jennifer Kent, as Samuel’s fear of monsters is brought to horrifying life when the pages of a children’s book bring a sinister presence into their lives.
As I finish writing this I will have seen this film three times, and it still unnerves me, Kent is amazing with her creativity, and the scares work because it isn’t just the Babadook, it’s Amelia, and what happens with her as well.
As the story tells with loss, grief, and anger, the film truly scares. There are some truly horrifying sequences, and some wonderful frights, and as both Amelia and Samuel try to deal with the changes in their home, and in their selves, the audience rockets along on a scary and psychological thrill ride.
The Babadook itself recalls Lon Chaney’s creation in London After Midnight, and the color schemes used within the house, and in some wardrobe for other characters, are meant to subconsciously connect the viewer to the pages of the pop-up book that keeps coming back.
Amelia and Samuel are still dealing with the loss of her husband, his father, some seven years earlier, and it has made Samuel into a child that needs attention, one who strikes out in fear and anger, and has turned Amelia into a hurt soul, unable to move on from her loss – issues that serve to separate her not only from her work colleagues, but from the rest of her family, who keep telling her to move on.
With her first feature film, Kent wowed audiences worldwide, bringing to life an all new monster that owes its presence to human suffering, and classic Hollywood films. In fact everything about this debut feature is on point, the use of sound, the editing, the visual effects, the performances (both leads are solid, and young Wiseman is especially believable).
As I write this the trailer for Kent’s next film, the revenge thriller Nightingale, has dropped, and it looks as impressive, and psychologically thrilling as The Babadook. But lets stay with the monster for a few minutes more yet.
The Babadook’s design, the way he appears, moves, all of it truly gets under your skin, and when Amelia goes to the police for help, and catches a glimpse, just a glimpse of something, it is really unnerving.
The Babadook is a wonderful new standard in horror that brings back old-school scares (which is nodded to in a nice sequence Amelia watches on telly), by not showing everything, as well as putting its characters in true emotional and physical jeopardy.
I really enjoy this one.
And there are even more titles to discover in DK Books’ The Movie Book, so pick one up and find something new to you to watch tonight!