The Babadook

Year: 2014
Production Co: Causeway Films
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

I was too chicken to see this film in cinemas after hearing about how scary it was, and when I finally did on DVD it was indeed creepy but there was a commendable lack of cheap jump scares, so I think I would have been all right.

The story of a single mother who unknowingly invites an evil spirit into the house she shares with her young son was actually such an effective parable about difficult children, single motherhood and the fatigue that results I wondered if it was going to turn out the titular creature was all in her fracturing mind the whole time. Maybe it was and the subtext was just buried too deep for me to spot.

Either way, soft spoken nurse Amelia (Esse Davis) struggles to keep her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) out of trouble as she raises him alone, her husband having died in a car crash taking her to hospital to give birth to Samuel years before.

Samuel is fighting at school and hiding homemade weapons in his bag and Amelia is at her wits end. In a rare moment of calm when she reads him a bedtime story, he selects a scary book she's never seen before – a pop-up book featuring a warning about how reading it will invite the ghostly, top-hatted figure of the title into your house.

At first the scary late-night goings on seem to just be attributable to happenstance as well as Amelia's increasing desperation as Samuel falls apart and she loses even more sleep, but in a single terrifying scene, the creature appears in her bedroom and ends up in the house to stay.

Director Jennifer Kent's Adelaide-set chiller had a huge amount of buzz around the world, especially in the US, and probably made two hundred times its money back. It was also exceptionally well done in that that the kid seems to be in the middle of the most horrific of the action, but if you look closely enough the editing and staging was very clever about keeping him separate from anything scary.

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