New life in horror genre
NOT so long ago, the South Australian film 52 Tuesdays received a limited release, and now comes another production from that state: Both are set in dingy suburban houses in Adelaide, both are directed by women, and both deal with events most would consider strange. Whereas 52 Tuesdays was about a mother who undergoes a sex change, The Babadook is a horror film about a mother who finds herself haunted by a particularly threatening ghost.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the film introduces us to Amelia (Essie Davis) and her six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Amelia has never quite recovered from the death of her husband, Oskar (played in brief flashbacks by Ben Winspear), who was killed in a crash that occurred while he was driving her to the hospital to give birth.
On the surface she seems to have adjusted reasonably well; she works in a home for the elderly, she’s kind and thoughtful towards her neighbour, she seems fairly calm. Yet, as beautifully and resonantly played by Davis, it’s clear that something’s wrong with a stillattractive widow whose horizons are so limited.
Her sister (Hayley McElhinney) is clearly concerned but is also wary of her. A great deal of this wariness and concern is due to Sam, who is prone to nightmares. The boy is hyperactive, volatile and unpredictable, and has an unhealthy interest in weapons and games involving violence — young Wiseman’s performance is sensationally good. No wonder the sister is nervous: this kid is potentially dangerous.
The tense situation is exacerbated when, one night, Sam produces a book for his mother to read to him: Mister Babadook has a bright red cover and vividly, almost brutally, drawn illustrations of a very sinister character. Once the Babadook has entered the house, he’s not easily ejected, as Amelia soon discovers, and all kinds of evil are attributed to this crudely drawn The Babadook (M) Limited release Sunshine on Leith (PG) Limited release My Sweet Pepper Land (M) Limited release
Sunshine on Leith character. When there’s a piece of Amelia’s soup: “The Babadook did it!”
The haunted-house movie in all its myriad variations is such a familiar genre that it’s difficult to believe anything new could be derived from the concept. Kent succeeds triumphantly in breathing new life into familiar material, so much so that it’s no surprise that the film was well received at Sundance earlier this year.
Made on what appears to be a modest budget, The Babadook proves once again that an original and personal vision is the principal requisite for an interesting film, but in this case the director’s work with two wonderful actors is crucial to the film’s success.
On the strength of this
edge-of-the-seat experience, Kent could become another of our filmmakers snapped up by Hollywood, but if she is, I doubt she’ll make as interesting a film as this one. A MUSICAL set in Scotland about two former soldiers back home after serving in Afghanistan seems an unlikely prospect, but that’s a nutshell description of the beguiling
which is structured around songs by Scottish duo the Proclaimers, whose hit Miles forms the film’s climax.
Dexter Fletcher’s film begins in the war zone as Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) narrowly escape the fate that befalls their friend. Back in Edinburgh, Ally resumes his relationship with Liz (Freya Mavor), Davy’s sister, and she introduces Davy to Yvonne (Antonia Thomas), a fellow nurse who has come north from London. The other key characters are Davy and Liz’s parents (Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks), who are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary when someone from the past turns up with a revelation.
Musicals aren’t as popular as they once were, unless they’re big productions based on popular stage successes, and I can imagine that this film will not be to everyone’s taste. The last time a film was made that was at all similar to this ( Across the Universe, which dramatised The Beatles’ song collection), the public largely stayed away. They missed a good film, and Sunshine on Leith is pretty good too.
There are sentimental elements, and not all the songs are top-drawer, but despite that the unlikely idea of having characters burst into song as they walk down the street or drink in a pub worked for me. Apart from the exuberant climax, the best scene is one in which Peter Mullan, known for the rather downbeat roles in which he’s usually cast, sings the heartfelt Jean to his wife at their anniversary celebration.
Leith is a suburb of Edinburgh, but the handsomely photographed film largely unfolds on
Kevin Guthrie and George MacKay in