Written and directed by Jennifer Kent The Babadook is an intelligent and deeply disturbing film.
Amelia (played by Essie Davis) is a single parent, her husband died driving her to the hospital when she was in labour with her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman).
We meet them 6 years after his death, Amelia hasn’t moved on and she’s struggling to cope with her highly strung and emotional son.
It would have been easy to paint Samuel as a brat but he isn’t. He has a wild imagination and is clearly just as affected by the death of a father he never knew. Samuel is convinced there are monsters out to get his Mum and he builds fantastic weapons to help protect them. Perhaps he knows something is brewing..
Amelia reads to her son each night and one evening he grabs a book of the shelf called Mister Babadook. It’s a black and white pop-up book bound in red with no author credited and it seems to unleash a malevolent spirit into their lives.
The film taps into something most filmmakers would and do avoid, women who struggle to be mothers. Essie Davis does an amazing job in the film, playing fragile with a sea of hostility bubbling so far under the surface that it’s really a shock when she lets it out and Noah Wiseman is marvelous as her young son, who is able to portray the bravery and resilience of much older child and the innocence and unconditional love a child has for it’s parents.
Heavily inspired by German expressionism and silent film which is right up my street, films like Vampyr, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and the wonderful films of Georges Méliès are all present here. I especially liked that when Amelia is too scared to sleep and sits in the lounge, it’s always old horror films that seem to be on TV.
Although Kent had received backing for the film, she went to Kickstarter to ask for $30,000 which would go towards the art department – an excellent move and well worth the money as although the inspiration behind the design is obvious the end result is something new and fresh.
Right from the beginning it’s clear this film is about grief, repressed emotion and how those things catch up to us.
The Babadook is a true psychological horror, a modern gothic and a strong directorial debut from Jennifer Kent.
A SHARED FACT: Of the film’s modest budget, $30,071 was raised via Kickstarter. Most of the funds raised from Kickstarter were channelled toward the art department.