Film: “The Babadook”; Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Barbara West, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney and Benjamin Winspear; Directed by: Jennifer Kent; Rating: ****
“Mister Babadooka…You’ll see him if you look…Baba dook dook dook!”
Who would consider that these innocuous rhyming words in an insignificant cutout picture book to take a spooky turn? But indeed, a simple bed-time story, which a mother reads to her young son, turns into a hauntingly nightmarish experience for the duo.
Packed with swinging moods, “The Babadook” is an exceptionally well-crafted film that pigeon holes into a psychological horror thriller.
It’s a simple story of a socially isolated nuclear family consisting of a mother and her son. It’s their bonding tale, which is laced with horror tropes.
Samuel, the young boy, is a vibrant, energetic and an over-enthusiastic child, who due to his anxiety issues, becomes aggressive and is hence considered antisocial and abnormal. On the other hand, Amelia, his loving and caring mom, is a young and selfless widow who lost her husband the day her son was born. She has to match up with her son’s pace single-handedly and this, coupled with her personal stress, leads to a psychosomatic disorder.
How the two cope with their lives forms the crux of the story. In addition, the red pop-up book with funky charcoal scribble and the black cutout eponymous character lurking within its pages, comes to life to terrorise them. That becomes the pivot of the narration.
Writer-director Jennifer Kent’s script is well structured, tight and intelligently well woven. The social isolation and the mundane stress form the perfect setting for this film. She gives us all the bad-dream horror scenarios which you might have often seen tactfully and she does not waver to give a brilliant twist. She knows her craft and through the narration, you would appreciate her skill.
With well rounded characters and brilliant life-like performances, you feel for the characters.
Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as Samuel are outstanding. Their on screen energy is plain and clear. Essie’s transition from a brooding mother to a possessed one is palpable. Similarly, Noah’s gusto and eagerness coupled with his innocence makes him adorable as well as monstrous at the same time. It’s touching to hear a never-stay-still Noah tell his mother, “I promise to protect you if you promise to protect me.”
On the production front, credit has to be given to the production designer, cinematographer, editor and the sound designer. Together, they have helped to craft a masterpiece that would haunt its audience much after they leave the theatres.
A must watch for a subtly unique experience.