Script: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Setting: 2010s, Australia
Rated : 8 Stars
Amelia tries her best, but single parenthood is not joke, especially when you are struggling with grief, and trying to hold down a job, and then there is the fact that Samuel is just plain different from other children. He’s always in trouble at school. At home he doesn’t sleep at night. His love is suffocating Amelia. And his obsession with protecting her from the monsters has led to some serious issues with regards to knives and school.
But it all gets so much worse when Amelia reads him a bedtime story about Mister Babadook1 .
Is the Babadook some stalker’s idea of a cruel trick. Is it Samuel taking things too far. Is it an actual monster? Or is it Amelia suffering some sort of mental breakdown?
I’m very wary of horror films. All too often they’re just slashers and feature torture-porn rather than a story. I’m not really interested in that sort of thing. Plus, you know, scary movies can be scary and then you have to take the dogs out before bed time and its dark, the wind is blowing in the trees, the cows are making funny noises. You never know, the monster could be out there…
But, even if you feel like I do about horror films, go watch this one. I obtained a copy as a gift, but after I watched it I went and bought a cinema ticket for it, even though I wasn’t going to the see it, just to support it. Its a small, low budget, horror, partially funded through kickstarter, and it certainly deserves your cash.
It’s a really fascinating film. Its a monster film. But it is also a film about motherhood, and the fact that having a child can trap you, and what if you don’t love your child? Or even if you love that child but sometimes you just want a bit of space to yourself, how do you explain that to a six year old with abandonment issues? It’s a psychological look at what it is to be a single parent. To be the only fixed point in your child’s life.
Amelia is probably also suffering from some sort of depression. She finds it difficult to sleep herself, the wanders, half-asleep, through her job. She is always tired and frazzled, and she can’t seem to find the energy to get angry or passionate about anything. Not until Mister Babadook starts to make his presence known of course.
But the real reason that The Babadook works so well, I think, is because it has real characters and excellent performances at its heart. You can empathise with Amelia and her frustration. But at the same time you can understand why Samuel is so clingy and possessive of his mother. I’m not too sure about the supporting characters though; they were written in a much more two dimensional way. There to emphasize how isolated Amelia and Samuel are rather than to be characters in their own right. But then again, that is probably because we are seeing them through Amelia’s eyes and so it makes sense. She doesn’t think any of them understand her and her problems, and she is probably right.
It isn’t a perfect film. And it wasn’t as scary as I had been made to believe, but it is certainly creepy and atmospheric and slightly terrifying rather than jumpy-scary. And well worth a watch.
baba duck not oo as in snooker ↩