Seven years after the tragic death of her husband, single mother Amelia is still consumed by grief and unable to connect with her troubled young son Samuel, whose unwavering belief in monsters is threatening to tear apart their lives.
When Samuel finds a macabre children’s book titled Mr Babadook, he becomes convinced that a frightening monster is stalking him and his mother. As Amelia struggles to control her son’s wild behaviour, a series of frightening occurrences force her to consider the possibility that they are no longer alone in their home.
What is the mysterious force known as The Babadook? And what does it want with Amelia and Samuel?
Filmed in Adelaide with the support of the South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia, The Babadook is Jennifer Kent’s debut feature as both writer and director. It is a deeply disturbing yet oddly touching psychological thriller.
Essie Davis, star of television series The Miss Fisher Mysteries, delivers an intense performance as the deeply depressed Amelia, whose already unstable emotional state is constantly challenged by the threatening presence of The Babadook. Amelia is an emotionally demanding character and Davis’s ability to switch effortlessly from fragile victim to raging psychotic will have viewers questioning who is really to blame for the events that unfold.
In his debut acting role, young Noah Wiseman shines as Samuel, a loving, albeit strange, child. Just six years old when the movie was filmed, Wiseman brings a beautiful sense of innocence to the story, and his character’s ear-shattering tantrums are worthy of an Oscar. Barbara West stars as Amelia’s kindly elderly neighbour Mrs Roach, while Hayley McElhinney is her uncaring sister, Claire.
Tim Purcell plays the Babadook – an eerie creature whose face and body is concealed from the audience by darkness. With his top hat and Freddy Kruger-like claws, the Babadook is truly menacing, and Kent’s decision to keep its appearance shrouded in darkness forces audience members to use their imaginations to summon their own nightmarish creature.
Dimly lit scenes and subtle sound effects further heighten the tension; often, it is what you think you saw or heard that frightens you. The book itself is also disturbing, yet beautifully crafted with charcoal images of frightened children and graphic violent scenes.
Underneath The Babadook’s frightening surface lies a story about finding strength in family and the power of a child’s unwavering love. Kent effortlessly weaves the two themes together to create a film which leaves you guessing – even after the credits.
The Babadook is a beautifully crafted Australian gem.
More InDaily film reviews:
The Zero Theorem
The Other Woman
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Grand Budapest Hotel
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