Making her confident, highly accomplished feature debut with superior horror chiller The Babadook, Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent roots her film’s scares in recognisably real situations and emotions.
Single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) is struggling to raise – and to love – her anxious, clingy, possibly autistic six-year son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), having lost her husband in a car crash when he drove her to the hospital to give birth. She is already at her wits end when Samuel chooses an eerie pop-up book called ‘Mister Babadook’ as his bedtime reading. Sure enough, the story’s spooky title character is soon invading their lives. But is the monster lurking under the bed or in your head?
Here the supernatural is indistinguishable from the psychological: either explanation is equally scary. Dominated by inky blacks, chilly blues and enervating greys, the film’s drained colour palette is unsettling enough on its own; when you hear the dry croak with which the creature announces his name – ‘Ba – ba – dook’ – the effect is truly spine chilling.
But it’s the superb acting that ensures the film gets under your skin. Pallid, anaemic-looking, saucer-eyed, Wiseman’s Samuel is simultaneously exasperating, creepy and touching, while Davis invests her character with a credible mix of grief, loneliness, guilt and desperate heroism.
Certificate 15. Runtime 102 mins. Director Jennifer Kent.
Released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital platforms by Icon Film Distribution on Monday 16th February.
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