Monday, October 03, 2016

The Babadook (2014)

It's hard to believe it's taken me two years to see this. I remember the hype and positive buzz when it came out, and ever since it's been on my infamous "list". This October challenge is a great excuse to finally sit down and watch this and others like it.

The Babadook belongs to the "are they mad or is it real?" sub-genre of horror and if it's not counted as one of the best, at the very least it's a potent strain of it; having both a child as one of the main characters and managing to tap into some very primal fears.

Amelia is a single mother and a widow. Her husband died seven years ago in a grisly car crash driving to the hospital for her to give birth, and as she admits herself, she's "not been right" since this event. She never, for example, celebrates her son Samuel's birthday on the actual day. Amelia is still tortured by her loss, barely coping, and between an infected tooth, bitchy sister, depressing job and Samuel himself - who's understandably a bit odd - her normal setting for life is "struggling".

When Samuel starts obsessing over a monster in a children's book called Mister Babadook, things really start to unravel. 

Ba ba-ba dook dook

The Babadook is scary, no doubt about it, and we have a slow, wonderful build of unfortunate events leading us to question if this creature is indeed steadily infecting the house... or is it just Amelia's grief and depression that's isolating them and evolving into something dangerous, and ugly?

The use of colour in this film is fantastic and the house where much of the action/tension takes place is almost all the same colour. Not only is it just plain weird (are your bedroom, living-room and front door all the same shade?) but it's unnerving, making the house feel flat, like the set of a stage play or (relevantly) a storybook background.

Blues, greys and shadows, everywhere.

Similarly, Amelia is seen wearing the same couple of outfits, or colour combinations of clothes throughout. This serves to remove an unnecessary distraction of wardrobe, plus adding to the feeling of characters existing on top of a backdrop. Her pastel pink and cream colour palette also highlight muck and gore very well!

Light and shadow, too, are used to brilliant effect. This relates to the primal fear I mentioned before. There's a certain deep-rooted horror of what lies in the shadows; a flicker in the corner of the eye, a coat taking the shape of a person... It's something we can all relate to - it's something that undoubtedly has always been - and when such a universal fear is used and used well, it's a glorious thing. I fully expect to have a heart-stopping moment tonight when I wake up and sleepily glance across the room.

I'd also like to give mention to the female-heavy element to this movie. It's written and directed by Jennifer Kent (her first feature length film), with predominantly female characters and a frankly perfect performance from Essie Davis as Amelia. 

She's clearly an actress with impressive range, giving us heartbreakingly meek and exhausted, to defiantly gritting her teeth, all the way up to animalistic twitching and screaming at Samuel (Noah Wiseman). I found my sympathy, surprisingly, switch from mother to son and back again, as both character arcs developed.

Frankly I've grown unaccustomed to caring about more than one character, and it definitely ups the ante, as you wonder who is going to crawl out the other end of the 90min runtime in one piece.

"I've never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me." 
 - William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist.

The guy has a point. I can imagine in the intense confines of the cinema, this film would've definitely had my heart in my throat. For the full experience this needs all lights off and volume up. The hype is justified!

Edited to add:
This film has definitely stuck with me, and I intend to revisit it. Thought I would share this review, I found, which is everything I hope to be in a horror blogger and more. So good. 

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