Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Babadook

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent that is based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is the story of a woman taking care of her troubled six-year old son when their life turns upside down by a book that features a creature the boy has been dreaming about. The film is an exploration of a woman dealing with grief as well as the things that could be troubling her son. Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. The Babadook is an exhilarating and entrancing film from Jennifer Kent.

The film follows a widow who lost her husband in a car accident on the day her son was born as the boy has been erratic and energetic until she finds a book about a monster that would eventually come to life to haunt both of them. It’s a film in which a woman copes with loss as she tries to move on as well as dealing with her six-year old son who is wild and claims he sees a monster which got him kicked out at school. During the course of the story, the woman in Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) is dealing with these situations as she would become haunted by this mysterious creature known as the Babadook.

Jennifer Kent’s screenplay starts off with Amelia trying to maintain some normalcy in raising her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) who has an active imagination and wants to do magic but is also troubled claiming he has strange nightmares. Upon finding this book to read to him at night, she thinks it’s just a simple book but it appears in strange places only to see Samuel act more lively and scared than usual with some telling Amelia that he's got some serious problems. Yet, Amelia would also unravel upon seeing things as it adds to what she read and what this mysterious creature would do.

Kent’s direction does have a sense of style in its approach to suspense and horror yet it is very straightforward in terms of playing into the drama as well as building things up. Shot on location in Adelaide in South Australia, the film does play into a world that is typical of suburbia where Amelia works at a nursing home to care for the elderly while her son goes to school and such. The air of suspense and horror doesn’t come until the second act during Amelia’s attempts to get rid of the book as well as Samuel’s increasingly erratic behavior. Kent would use some wide shots to establish bits of the location as well as emphasizing the space inside the house yet much of the compositions would have Kent use medium shots and close-ups. Especially in the scenes where Amelia becomes unhinged by these strange images she’s seeing as well as what Samuel is claiming to see.

One aspect of the film that is key to its horror is the book that is created by its illustrator/designer Alex Juhasz as it is this pop-up book that is about this monster that haunts those who call for it. By the time the film reaches the second act where Amelia starts to see things and wonder if she’s really hallucinating or this monster in the Babadook is actually preying on her. Things definitely intensify during the third act where Kent’s approach to suspense and horror really come ahead where Amelia would start to lose aspects of herself as if the Babadook had possessed her just like the book had predicted. All of which would eventually lead to this climax into what the Babadook wants and Amelia needing to protect her son from this mysterious creature as it also forces her to confront loss. Overall, Kent crafts a chilling and gripping film about a woman trying to protect her son from a monster created from some mysterious book.

Cinematographer Radoslaw Ladczuk does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the natural look of the scenes in the daytime to the array of lighting queues and set-ups for the scenes set at night. Editor Simon Njoo does brilliant work with the editing as it has some inventive rhythmic cutting to play into the suspense and horror while knowing how to build it up. Production designer/co-art director Alex Holmes, with set decorator Jennifer Drake and co-art director Karen Hannaford, does fantastic work with the look of the house that Amelia and Samuel live in as well as the basement which features some of the things Amelia’s late husband had. Costume designer Heather Wallace does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of a magic cape that Samuel wears.

Hair/makeup supervisor Tracy Phillpot does terrific work with some of the gory makeup for some of the film’s climax while much of it is straightforward. Visual effects supervisor Marty Pepper and prosthetics supervisor Dale Bamford do amazing work with the look of the Babadook with the usage of puppets, stop-motion animation, and some computer-created visual effects as it is one of the film’s highlights. Sound designer Frank Lipson does incredible work with the sound for some of the sound effects as well as the way the Babadook would make sounds to help create that sense of terror. The film’s music by Jed Kurzel is superb for its orchestral-based music to help play into the suspense and horror without using it as a crutch as well as not appear in certain places while music supervisor Andrew Kotako creates a soundtrack that mainly feature a few contemporary pieces as well as some pop and whatever was playing in Amelia’s television.

The casting by Nikki Barrett is great as it feature some notable small roles from Chloe Hurn as Samuel’s cruel cousin Ruby, Adam Morgan as a police sergeant, Benjamin Winspear as Amelia’s late husband Oskar, Daniel Henshall as a co-worker of Amelia’s in Robbie, Hayley McElhinney as Amelia’s sister Claire, Barbara West as Amelia’s elderly, Parkinson’s stricken neighbor, and Tim Purcell as the model for the Babadook. Noah Wiseman is remarkable as Samuel as a six-year old boy with an active imagination who is dealing with the strange things he is seeing claiming that the Babadook exists as it is a terrifying yet energetic performance. Finally, there’s Essie Davis in a phenomenal performance as Amelia as a single mother still dealing with the loss of her husband as she is also overwhelmed by her son where Davis displays a physicality in the scenes during the third act that is intense as well as showcase a determination in that balance of fear and insanity as it is a performance for the ages.

The Babadook is a tremendous film from Jennifer Kent that features spectacular performances from Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. It’s a film that plays with the conventions of the horror genre while maintaining its focus of the relationship between a mother and son as well as how they cope with death and what they could find though grief. In the end, The Babadook is a magnificent film from Jennifer Kent.

© thevoid99 2017


keith71_98 said...

I agree. Big fan of this one and have plans to rewatch it this Halloween season.

Unknown said...

Heard a lot of good stuff about it. From how you describe it, seems better than It Follows which had good score, some scary momemts and curious idea but overall didn't impress me thst much.

Dell said...

Totally with you on this one. I think it's brilliant.

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-It's the right film for the Halloween season.

@indiescifi451.com-I would totally recommend this if you're looking for something that is very different as well as keep you on the edge of your seat.

@Wendell-Indeed it is.