The Babadook

The bad- a book

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Penny dreadful -

Essie Davis and seven- year- old new­comer Noah Wise­man star in this creepy hor­ror, hit­ting the big screen.

Re­lease Date: 24 Oc­to­ber 15 | 94 min­utes Distrib­u­tor: Stu­dioCanal Di­rec­tor: Jen­nifer Kent Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wise­man, Daniel Hen­shall, Tim Pur­cell, Cathy Adamek, Hay­ley McEl­hin­ney

The Baba- what? Like its un­set­tling but strangely fa­mil­iar ti­tle, this de­but hor­ror from Aus­tralian di­rec­tor Jen­nifer Kent is both heart­break­ingly re­lat­able and eerily un­canny, as a bed­time story be­comes a mon­strous night­mare.

Ma­trix Rev­o­lu­tions star Essie Davis plays fraz­zled widow Amelia, whose hus­band was killed in a car ac­ci­dent and whose six- yearold son Sa­muel ( Noah Wise­man – en­dear­ing, in­fu­ri­at­ing, sweet, weird) is con­vinced there’s a mon­ster liv­ing in his house. And, un­for­tu­nately, there is. Sa­muel plans to smash the mon­ster’s head in with home­made weaponry, un­til one night he finds a book called Mr Babadook in his bed­room. It’s about a grin­ning ghoul who knocks three times – “Ba- baba Dook! Dook! Dook!” – and who once he’s come in will never leave.

Re­ly­ing pri­mar­ily on sounds and shad­ows, the Babadook him­self is mostly in­sin­u­ated through in­ex­orably terrifying black char­coal draw­ings in Sa­muel’s book. You see the pic­tures, you hear the knocks, you can imag­ine ex­actly what’s com­ing to get you. In­deed, the pro­duc­tion de­sign gives a sense of the film ex­ist­ing within a sto­ry­book too, a “pop- up book movie” as Kent her­self has de­scribed it, with a nar­ra­tive crafted care­fully so as to be com­pletely sat­is­fy­ing and log­i­cal as su­per­nat­u­ral re­al­ity or as poignant metaphor.

Though you do get glimpses of the tan­gi­ble form of the Babadook, this isn’t a mon­ster movie. Be­gin­ning like We Need To Talk About Kevin and mov­ing to­wards the chills and emo­tional heft of The Or­phan­age, it hinges on Essie Davis’s per­for­mance. As Amelia, she’s ter­rific – brit­tle and an­guished but al­ways un­der­stated.

The Babadook feels very fe­male- and adult- fo­cused, cen­tring as it does on a mother strug­gling to love her own child, though it car­ries its fair share of jumps and shocks and a vein of dark hu­mour too. Far smarter and more orig­i­nal than any­thing com­ing out of Amer­ica right now, this fresh, mov­ing, and hide- be­hind- your- coat thriller will be the stand­out hor­ror film of 2014. Rosie Fletcher

For the Babadook, Kent in­vented a name that would be ono­matopoeic and the sort of word a child might come up with. “Hey, mum, are those my Christ­mas presents up there?”

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