The Babadook

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The Babadook

While other genres – crime, science-fiction – struggle and die in Australia, horror just keeps on keeping on. For which we should all be grateful: the pop culture future is firmly genre-based and if we don’t have at least some reputation for doing some of it right we’ll be left as the English-language equivalent of, say, Italy: a place that makes decent films that hardly anyone outside their borders bothers with. That’s not to say things aren’t dire here too: unable to secure mainstream funding, writer/director Jennifer Kent had to partially crowdfund this film, thus proving many of our funding bodies wouldn’t know a decent idea if it shouted “boo” at them.
Essie Davis – yes, Miss Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – is a single mum struggling with a child (Noah Wiseman) who’s more than a handful. Things only get worse after he asks her to read him a bedtime story from a mysterious pop-up book about a creature called the “Babadook” (that’s the knocking noise it makes when it comes into your house – ba-ba-DOOK!), which may or may not summon the creature into their lives. Increasingly frazzled and cut off from everyone around her, she struggles to cope with her son’s growing bad behaviour – but is the problem supernatural, or just a combination of being run down and stressed?
Like a lot of horror movies the scary stuff tends to fade once the mystery becomes clear, but the middle stretches of this film where it’s basically about a single mum struggling to cope are excellent whichever way you’re expecting the third act to go. It’s a low-budget effort so the special effects are a little ropey at times, but they’re never so shoddy that they’ll take you out of the film – and the evil book itself is a first-class piece of work (there’s your spin-off merchandise right there). The real stars are the cast: Wiseman is almost too convincing as a possibly trouble child, and if this doesn’t give Davis a career doing anything she feels like then there’s something wrong with the movie industry.
Written by Anthony Morris