Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Babadook

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Language: English
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 93 minutes

Ever since I heard about this movie, I desperately wanted to see it. It had potential to be something great and offered something fresh and different than what's taking up space in theaters. I heard many good things about it as well and I was very happy that my job had a couple copies to check out.

On the way to the hospital to deliver their first child, Amelia and her husband get into a horrific car accident causing her husband to die. Fortunately, Amelia is able to give birth to their son Samuel who has a constant fear and violent reaction to monsters. Amelia struggles with her emotions of the lost of her husband and has difficulty controlling Samuel around other kids, especially at school. She tries to calm her son down and rid his fear of monsters by checking his room and reading him bedtime stories to help him sleep. One night, a mysterious book appears on Samuel's shelf called Mister Babadook and his mother begins to read it. It starts off somewhat normal, but gradually the story becomes disturbing and too close to reality which triggers Samuel's fears once again. After reading the book, their home begins to have some strange and unsettling occurrences.

Much like The Conjuring, Oculus, and Sinister, The Babadook gives me hope for the horror movie genre. It has a slow building story full of suspense that gets more and more intense as mysterious, unexplainable events occur in the house. I guess it's the same factor people see in movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity that I don't see at all. I really enjoyed this story as simple and somewhat cliche as it is. I've seen this concept done before in horror, but Jennifer Kent adds something new to the concept that makes it intriguing and thoroughly entertaining for me. Mr. Babadook seems very ominous and yet threatening enough that you don't want him any where near our main characters or yourself. Some might lump him in the same category as other haunted house or possession movie plot devices, but there's a freshness to his motive and movement. I'm glad they didn't reveal him too soon or show too much, which is a mistake a lot of movies make, even the ones I like a lot. The way he slowly seeps into these people's lives is disturbing and unnerving. It's like a leech beneath the skin that you just can't get rid of. Our main characters Amelia and Samuel react very well to their situation as well as the set up to Amelia's neglected grief. I believe them and I feel sympathetic towards these characters, although I admit that there are moments where I found Samuel annoying or Amelia to be a bad parent, but I think that only makes them more human. They have near perfect development and I can easily understand Amelia's struggle with her emotions and her only son. You really want her to push forward and even more not fall into the temptations of Mr. Babadook.

I had some minor complaints with this movie...well, one minor and one major. For the minor complaint, which I've briefly mentioned, is my annoyance with Samuel. I know he's a child, but at times I couldn't stand him! He was always causing trouble for Amelia and his fear of monsters would kinda get a little old. Of course, I understand that this annoying acting was probably purposeful so we can understand Amelia's struggle and the other adults around him who tried to help him out. Nonetheless, he was still a believable actor and I didn't want anything bad to happen to him. For the major problem I had with the movie were the audio levels. I don't know if it was just me or the movie, but I had to turn up my TV pretty high to hear the dialogue. While the dialogue was soft, everything else was loud. So, occasionally, my mom would hear random screaming, growling, or whatever else outside my bedroom to either her room or the living room because it was so loud. But it couldn't be helped if I'm trying to hear the dialogue in between the intensity. I just wished the audio levels were more consistent.

If it isn't obvious, I really enjoyed The Babadook! It was a refreshing horror movie for me in the sea of mediocre, boring, or low budget horror I've subjected myself to. The story is intriguing and will keep you sutured to your seat the whole way through. If you enjoy good, slow building suspense with an ominous, intimidating creature literally lurking in the shadows, this will be a treat for you. I would like to recommend this to everyone, but since horror has shifted to more noisier, slightly faster pace, I don't think the newer generation would appreciate the suspense build up or gradual monster reveal in this movie. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic movie and I'm glad to have another sliver of hope for the genre's resurrection to its roots.

Rating: 4/5

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