Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #3: The Babadook

There now, that's more like it.

Widowed mom Amelia (the incomparable Essie Davis) is not coping well.  Still depressed by her husband's death as he drove her to the hospital for the birth of their son, she is stressed and exhausted, sleep-deprived, struggling to connect with her child.  Samuel (Noah Wiseman, also very good) is a weird little kid and from the moment you meet him, you feel for his mother.  He is disobedient, shrieky and off-putting.  Already under strain, their relationship deteriorates after the appearance of a horrible children's pop-up book, Mister Babadook; Sam becomes violent and menacing, building homemade weapons and repeatedly telling his mother that "[he] doesn't want her to die."  Unable to sleep and with no support from her family, Amelia becomes more and more unhinged until suddenly the audience realizes they have shifted their sympathies to Sam: his mom has become terrifying.  All the while the Babadook lurks and looms.

The titular monster isn't all that original or scary in and of itself - we've all seen skittering, looming and lurking before.  And I lost my focus for a time towards the end of the movie when the threats became more overt.  But for most of this wonderful little Australian movie, the tension ratchets up, bit by bit, until I was continuously squirming nervously in my chair.  Whether you believe that Mister Babadook is a real malevolent entity or instead a product of Amelia's instability and Sam's overactive imagination (and I believe a case can be made for that), The Babadook is a taut, scary look at loss, resentment and parenthood.

Image result for the babadook

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