the babadook | jennifer kent | essie davis | noah wiseman | daniel henshall | monster | drama | australia | canada | hayley mcelhinney | barbara west | benjamin winspear | chloe hurn | jacquy phillips | bridget walters | annie batten | tony mack | psychological
Film: The Bababook
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman and Daniel Henshall
This film was one of the first that I checked out when I got into listening to podcasts. I started to make a list of the films I had missed as for the longest time; I was bad about seeing new horror films. Updating this review is really giving me fond memories because of starting down this journey that I’m on today. I’ve now given this a third viewing with Jaime as I’m working through the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis is a widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
We start by filling in the back-story through a nightmare. Amelia (Essie Davis) was in a car accident with her husband, Oskar (Benjamin Winspear) while she was pregnant. He was killed and Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was born that day. He wakes her up from this nightmare telling her that he had one of his own. She goes into his room to check for a monster, reads him a story and Samuel ends up sleeping in bed with her. We see that keeps her from getting much sleep.
Amelia works as a nurse in a retirement home. She is struggling with being tired. One of her co-workers is Robbie (Daniel Henshall) and he shows interest in her. Amelia is informed that her son’s school is calling. Samuel makes weapons and is into magic. He brought a make-shift gun that shoots darts to school. They want to separate the boy, who already feels alienated, to give him special attention. Amelia won’t have this and pulls him out of school.
That night, she allows him to pick out the book she will read him to go to bed. The one he chooses is one she hasn’t seen before called Mister Bababook. It is a pop-up book with pull slides in it. The book though is quite scary and it upsets Samuel, which becomes another sleepless night for Amelia as he is barely consolable.
Amelia’s sister is played by Claire (Hayley McElhinney). The two of them go to a park with their kids and we start to get that Claire and her daughter don’t really care for Samuel. He is quite needy, loud and unruly. Claire does allow the boy to come over during the day since he isn’t in school. Amelia tells him not to speak of the Bababook and that he isn’t real.
Amelia goes to work and is having a rough day. She is caught being rude to the residents by another nurse. Robbie tells her that he will cover for her to go home. She decides to go and have a relaxing day to herself. When she checks her phone though, she has ten missed calls from her sister. Amelia goes to her house to find her son by himself in the yard. He was talking to something and it freaked Claire out.
She continually tries to convince Samuel that the Bababook is not real and that it is something in his head. He has a seizure while they are driving home and he is taken to the doctor. Amelia begs the doctor to give her something for him to sleep. He is reluctant, but does write her a script.
She starts to see things herself though. The book she had hid on top of her bureau and somehow Samuel got it back. She then threw it away, ripping all the pages out of it. There is knocking at the door and she finds the book on her doorstep. The pages are taped back together and there is more to the story this time. There are images of the mother killing their dog, son and herself. She starts to see images of the creature from the book on television as well as thinking she sees it in person.
Now I really wanted to see this film when it first came out and missed the chance. As I said earlier, I heard from horror podcasts that this film was good, so I was intrigued. I do agree with them. The story of this was interesting to me. I like the idea of this book that is about the creature, but it doesn’t give really much background. It is creepier seeing the images and it being geared toward children. I love that Amelia doesn’t think it is real, but she isn’t sleeping. She slowly descends into madness and it makes you start to wonder, is the creature real or has she lost it. The concept of the Bababook getting inside of her helps to make it ambiguous as well.
There is much deeper themes here as well that I took to heart after multiple viewings. Amelia is told by Claire that she wants to talk more, even though it doesn’t feel that way. Amelia has closed herself off when Oskar passed away. She never truly dealt with that grief, which is why she won’t celebrate Samuel’s birthday on the actual day since it’s the anniversary of his death as well. The lack of sleep and exhaustion add to the building frustration and change we see in her character. It is also overwhelming to deal with what she has and raise the child that you share with the person you lost.
Going from this, we have another element here. Samuel is afraid of monsters. When they read the Babadook, which gives him a representation to what he believes he sees. There is something here that I didn’t pick up on until this last viewing. It is when his mother starts getting upset that sees it and there is a correlation there, especially since the Babadook is targeting her. It makes sense with the images in the book as well.
To the pacing of the film, I think it is well done. We establish that Amelia is struggling from the beginning. I like the transition that we see her lying in bed and then it will get bright fast, signifying that she isn’t sleeping and it doesn’t feel like restful sleep. The longer this goes, the more we see the aspects above growing within her. When she starts seeing the images of The Babadook, it really made me feel uneasy as well. After multiple viewings, I really liked the ending and the implications of what has transpired. What is interesting though after this last viewing, I do feel the movie drags just a bit for me. We are getting just over a 90 minute runtime. This isn’t enough to ruin it, but something I felt.
I will say that for the acting, it was good. Davis does a great job. I feel horrible for her and know that when you aren’t sleeping how irritable and how hard it would be to function. The longer it goes on, the worse she got and it is quite believable. Wiseman was extremely annoying and got on my nerves. I almost wanted his character to get murdered by how bad he was, but his acting was good to get that reaction out of me. He was supposed to play the character this way and he did an excellent job of it. The more I see this, the more I realize how well he did to be honest. The rest of the cast do round out the film for what was needed as well.
Next I want to talk about the creature in this film. I think he looks great. We don’t get to see him a lot, it is only glimpses and I love that. It makes it that much scarier. I did find it interesting as well that he was modeled after Lon Chaney from London After Midnight. There aren’t a lot of effects really in the film, but the ones that are done look good so I have no issues there. The editing of this film is good as well. They incorporated a lot of cartoons and edited the creature into things on television. Some of these were creepy to me and I liked it. The film was also shot very well in my opinion.
As for the soundtrack, I think that it does what it needs to in order to build the atmosphere. Going along with this, I do have to commend the film for its sound design. The use of the creature saying its name was quite creepy. They also seemed to incorporate bug sounds as well as a monster’s howl that I think ties back in with things that are seen earlier like knocking. This did help to enhance the film.
Now with that said, I would recommend this film. The story and concept of the film are great and quite socially relevant. The acting is very good. The editing of the film was well done. The creature looked good and the sound design helps to build the atmosphere we need. There will be some people who don’t care for this, especially with the implications at the end. You still should give it a watch, even if you aren’t a fan of the genre. I would say that this is a very good film overall and definitely worth a viewing.
My Rating: 9 out of 10