A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The horror genre has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, with boring, cheap, lazy filmmaking techniques and marketing scams taking over what the genre is all about.
Too often we see yet another found-footage piece of garbage bombarding our screen with cowardice, shameless jump scares and excessive splattering gore. Is it the end for the genre as we know it? Can it ever return to the form of the past classics that defined the genre at it’s core?
Thankfully, yes. I’m proud to say as an Australian that it is films such as “The Babadook” that re-ignite hope in sceptics and doubters such as myself. This is what horror is all about!
Amelia and her son Samuel live together in a reasonably well-off neighbourhood. Six years to the day after Amelia’s husband tragically and violently passed away (the same day Samuel was born), things begin to change in a strange way, solely due to an unfamiliar book taken off Samuel’s shelf before bedtime.
‘Mister Babadook’, an uncredited pop-up book is chosen by Samuel, and after reading the spooky and threatening nursery rhyme, life becomes a living nightmare for the mother and son.
The Babadook is an evil spirit that overpowers his victims but only after you ‘let him in’ – it’s traditional spirit oriented horror, but it’s so very well done!
What is most impressive about “The Babadook” is the lack of lazy and commercial jump scare tactics. This takes a brave step back in time to when horror film relied on clever scripts, harrowing scores and an ominous sense of dread and threat from the unknown.
The hinting of jump scares and the alluding towards shocking and in-your-face imagery is what makes this such a frightening and scary picture. Like a girl playing hard to get, “The Babadook” is masterful as it teases and genuinely affects it’s audience through induced doubt, speculation and disturbance of their imagination. We want that in-your-face imagery, but do we actually? Keeping us on the edge of our seats, the film is structured brilliantly for this exact reason. Although we rarely see the beast itself, it’s presence is there, and we feel it constantly.
If there was a film that made you check your closet before bedtime, this would be a prime example from 2014.
The performances are solid all round. Samuel, played by young Noah Wiseman is a little s**t of a character, but that’s a deliberate move, especially considering his character shift as the narrative progresses. Wiseman has the talents to go far, and I for one sincerely hope he continues to mature in to a fine Australian actor that is part of the new breed of talented youngsters.
Moreover, Essie Davis is absolutely flawless as Amelia. The Tasmanian actress is exceptional in her efforts as the well-rounded, fascinating mother figure. She conveys every possible emotion to perfection and should be recognised for one of 2014’s standout performances from a leading actor.
Daniel Henshall, a well known Aussie face, plays Robbie – the stock ‘friend’ character who appears in every horror film. Although he was great as an actor, his character just seemed misplaced towards the end of the film. He simply disappeared and wasn’t mentioned again which was upsetting as far as exploration was concerned.
Nitpicking aside, the cast is superb!
If horror is your thing, you’ve probably already seen “The Babadook”. If not, I guarantee you won’t see a better horror this year.
With the majority of releases being filmed on an iPhone nowadays, “The Babadook”, with it’s excellent colour pallet, cinematography and fleshed out narrative, stands supreme and gives hope for horror films to come. It’s not without it’s faults, but for a first time director, this is something truly exceptional!
Jennifer Kent, you’ve done us Australians proud! Take a bow!