The Babadook (2014)

This is quite possibly the best horror flick I've seen in quite a while. The name of the movie combined with the poster (or, worse still, the trailer) might give you the impression that this is a creature movie. It isn't. It's so much better and so much more insidious. It is a more cerebral film about a mother descending into madness, and her son following her on the ride. It all happens in Australia, so I am left wondering if this kind of thing might be normal there, and I just hadn't been exposed to it.

Recent horror movies that I've watched have either focused on gore, have relied on jump scares, or have relied on the found-footage-style production quality to generate fear. All of these are cheats in their worst form. They are attempts to bypass actual effort by dazzling or confusing the audience more than generating actual fear. Recently, I started to think that the problem was with me - that there was no story or way to film that would generate the thrill of an actual scare anymore. I MUST have become so jaded and disinterested in people on screen that I can't associate their fear with actual jeopardy. And when they make bad choices, ah, let them die. It turns out, I needed a good story that was well done.

The mother - who is at her wit's end - is dealing with a child who pretty clearly has some significant interaction problems, obedience problems, hyperactivity, disregard for rules, etc. She is ill equipped to deal with him when they come across the book called Mister Babadook, and then she starts a serious descent into madness. Her sister has had enough of dealing with the boy, her son keeps being destructive and generally abusive towards everyone, her perspective boyfriend gets scared off, her peers condescend to her, and the world closes in around her.

I am struggling to convey what made this movie so fantastic to me without giving too many of the plot points, but there is a clear manic reaction to everything happening around her that manifests itself in perspective changes, outbursts, chopped up time, and a general foreboding.

The film is gorgeously shot. From the occasional quick edit to the long shot of a simple banister, the mood is set through blurry images coming into focus, quick glances, and meaningful pauses. In fact, the pauses and the silence make this film more than it ever would be with all of the orchestral crescendos in the world. No Inception noise nonsense in here. Instead, we get a buzz of an incandescent light, the scrape of fingertips across the forehead, and echoes of breathing across an empty room.

Direction was very good
Story was exceptional
Acting was excellent
Cinematography was phenomenal
Dialog was very good

Bottom Line: An excellent movie that is best when you have no expectations of it.



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