Film Review: The Babadook (Australia, 2014)

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Raising a disobedient 7 year-old child while working shifts at a nursing home and maintaining what remains of your home after your husband is gone – killed in a car crash on the way to the hospital to deliver your unborn child – is pretty damn tough. This is what Amelia faces (Essie Davis) with her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who obsesses over magic tricks and takes his homemade weapons to school to terrorise his fellow students and teachers. This miserable existence that Amelia lives in takes a sharp turn to the sinister when Samuel pulls out a book from the bookshelf he asks his mum to read to him before bedtime.

The Babadook is a terrifying dark figure that begins to haunt Samuel, traumatised by the stories told in the mysterious pop-up book. Amelia, mentally and physically exhausted, attempts to tell Samuel that there are no monsters, with every last bit of energy she can muster. She goes to the lengths of destroying the book on two separate occasions, but it keeps coming back. Then Amelia beings to see the figure of the Babadook for herself, triggering the intense scenes that follow, driving her to breaking point.

Essie Davis’ role as Amelia in The Babadook is a far cry from her role as Phryne Fisher in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Her performance amplifies the pain and suffering that Amelia went through, largely in silence. Her hollowed, lifeless face matches the home she lives in with Samuel. The lighting and framing of the house reinforces the emptiness in Amelia. Dark shadows, colourless furnishings and creaks/cracks set the perfect scene for the creepy happenings that unfold.

The film is written and directed by Jennifer Kent and is really a well-paced film, engaging, saddening and incredibly eerie. The Babadook is honestly a triumph for Australian cinema. The horror genre is booming in this nation and with films as beautifully written, shot and performed as this, there is no stopping what Australians can do, reinvigorating and breathing new life into the genre.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Run time: 92 minutes

The Babadook is released nationally on May 22 through Umbrella Entertainment