The Babadook (2014)



Every couple of years there is one film that comes out of nowhere to capture the imaginations of horror (and sometimes non-horror) fans across the globe. Most recently ac couple of years ago, Ben Wheatleys Kill List stormed out of England to dominate most year end top 10 lists - regardless of genre. This year the title of "horror cultural phenomenon" was bestowed upon the Australian film "The Babadook." Exorcist director William Friedkin declared "I've never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook. It will scare the hell out of you...". While there is a bot of hyperbole in Friedkins statement, he is correct in saying, simply put. The Babadook WILL scare the hell out of you.

After losing her husband on the way to deliver their son six year earlier, Amelia is still struggling to hold it together. Working as a nurse, her job is by nature high stress. Add to that her son, Sam, has an overactive imagination and a penchant for both gadgets and magic that often lead to more trouble and consequently, more stress for Amelia. When Sam chooses a strange book, The Babadook, off the shelf for reading, the dark parts of Sams imagination overtake him. Or so Amelia thinks. As strange coincidences begin to mount Amelia is forced to face the fact that it's not Sams imagination that's putting them in danger...it's something far more sinister.

To first time feature writer/director Jennifer Kent - welcome to the show! I wrote about this a bit before in my review of The Taking of Deborah Logan (review HERE), but Kent as an established actress who turned writer/director for this project brings something that most writer/directors don't. Having that experience in front of the camera gives her a unique perspective when crafting scenes and more importantly dialogue. The ability to create situations where she knows exactly ow and actor or actress should react is an invaluable resource. But it means shit, if she had nothing to say. Fortunately, Kent has something interesting to say, she has it in spades.

The Babadook is a childrens story, it's a nursery rhyme. But in true Grimms fairy tale fashion, Kent infuses her nursery rhyme with more terror than the brothers Grimm could ever imagine. The film is buoyed but two tremendous performances. Essie Davis portrayal of Amelia is one of the best performances in recent horror history. Even someone as jaded and childless as myself couldn't help but empathize with this poor single mother. The film is built on the back of Davis' performance. It's through her eyes that we question, then turn, and are overwhelmed by the evil that is The Babadook. Conversely, Sam knows the score the entire time. In essence he's The Doctor and Amelia is the companion. Which leads to the other thing that really puts The Babadook heads and shoulders above most other films - regardless of genre, it's child star. Noah Wiseman knocks it out of the park as little Sam. From the first time you see his wide eyes after performing a magic trick to the last time we see him celebrating his birthday, he is mesmerizing. Often films with child actors suffer because the children can't act. Thankfully, Wiseman more than lives up to his role and his excellent co-star.

The last piece of the puzzle for The Babadook is the creation itself. Not since the Freddy Krueger jump rope scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street has an evil rhyme scheme become such and ear worm. The lasting legacy of the film, beyond the great script and performances, my be the fact the long after the last reel plays The Babadooks scratchy voice will be echoing in your brain...Babadook...dook...dook.

While certainly not as good as the ridiculous hyperbole (nothing ever is), The Babadook is one of the best, if not the best horror film of the year. The film is sure to resonate with anyone who currently has or has had young kids with rather active imaginations. It is available right now on all the usual VOD platforms. Check it out.

**** and 1/2 stars out of *****

That's all for me. As always, thanks for reading and and "enjoy every sandwich."

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