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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.9%
Worth A Look75.86%
Average: 6.9%
Pretty Bad: 6.9%
Total Crap: 3.45%

3 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Babadook, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Raising a kid alone can be scary as hell."
4 stars

SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: I love kids, at least from the perspective of being an uncle; I fear that as an actual parent, I would identify far too much with certain parts of "The Babadook" to be much of a good person, let alone parent. There's no mistaking that this is one of those horror movies where the monster is inspired by specific fears and nightmares, but it's also one where the specificity of its metaphor doesn't hurt it being scary at all.

You'll be forgiven for thinking the film's primary monster is six-year-old Samuel (Noah Wiseman), an inventive kid but one who never stops screaming for attention, doesn't listen, and otherwise makes life difficult for widowed mother Amelia (Essie Davis) - and, yes, he's well aware that his father died the day he was born. He builds wooden weapons to combat the monsters he still believe are hiding under his bed, the latest of which is The Babadook, a dark creature in a top hat with giant weapons for hands, which he learns of in a pop-up book that appeared in the house without explanation. Maybe there's a Babadook, maybe not, but when Samuel gets expelled from school, it's trouble for Essie either way.

A nightmare, really; writer/director Jennifer Kent doesn't have Davis or Wiseman hold back much at all. Samuel just doesn't stop, and while he's not quite shrill, he's written as a very difficult child, the sort where even if he turns out to be right about this monster, it's not going to make Amelia look the fool for doubting him or being frustrated, as is often the case. (Bonus: The other kids are not made to look like little angels in comparison.) Davis, meanwhile, is made to look like Amelia hasn't slept in ages; to look at her from the start is to see someone who is just physically exhausted.

Essie Davis is great in all facets here. For as much as Amelia is tremendously frustrated with Samuel and generally ground down, there's also never any doubt that she loves him very much, even as those extremes push her toward moments that could easily come off as too much. It's a terrific performance under any circumstances, and not one you'll often find at the center of a horror movie. The cast is tight, with Noah Wiseman doing similarly strong work as Samuel - similarly, he's great for one so young - and Barbara West contributing the occasional grounding necessary as their elderly next-door neighbor.

Those who come to be scared don't just have to settle for what it's like to have disobedient children, though; Kent amplifies that feeling and concentrates it into a supernatural villain that works in large part for how sparingly he is used, keeping to corners and a few effects scenes but still present through various fake-outs and a nightmarish children's book. The climax is tricky - it's clear from the foreshadowing that some of Samuel's bad behavior is going to have to be put to use, along with an amount of sheer willpower that may not quite fit with the story being told.

It's still thrilling, though, which is the important part. "The Babadook" knows where it's coming from and mines that place for all it can get, but it's generally effective and scary enough that those of us without kids can still have a good jolt.

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originally posted: 09/22/14 01:06:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Stanley Film Festival For more in the 2014 Stanley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2014 Fantastic Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/01/20 dupadoit so ban me 4 stars
9/28/19 Dr. Lao Will disappoint people who just want to see a monster 4 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell not bad but the ending was rather silly 3 stars
1/19/16 Alexis H More sophisticated horror that is more in touch with reaility than most 4 stars
5/20/15 brian Classic horror, just not for slasher and jump-scare fans. 4 stars
4/29/15 The Big D Some scary bits, but the ending is somewhat cheesy. 3 stars
3/06/15 Meep Quite boring, nut I'm usually thoroughly bored by so called horror films 2 stars
1/29/15 Simplefilmreviews Best horror movie of 2014 5 stars
12/19/14 Langano Babastupid. 1 stars
11/18/14 MVC meh, the ending is thoughtless btw 2 stars
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  28-Nov-2014 (R)
  DVD: 14-Apr-2015

  24-Oct-2014 (15)


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