The Babadook ★★½

"My cousin isn't coming because I broke her nose in two places."

Take a hint of "The Shining" (unstable parent that may or may not mean their offspring ill), a bit of "Evil Dead" (reading from a book brings about Evil, Evil POV shots), a splash of German Expressionism (shadows feature prominently, otherworldly domestic color schemes), elements of "The Exorcist", "The Ring" (the montage of movies glimpsed on TV late at night in which the titular character features heavily) and, basically, every other supernatural horror movie you've ever seen and you get "The Babadook". The movie is actually quite gripping in the early going, when stress, grief and the lack of sleep that any parent of young children is well acquainted with (I have two under the age of five, I've been there) conspire to leave the mother at the heart of this movie frazzled and ripe for insanity and/or the influence of the titular beastie. But I personally found the movie to be a lot more derivative and a lot less nerve-racking as it went along. It just didn't get under my skin, probably because the mother and the son were both so irritating at times I wasn't all that invested in their personal welfare. It's got some effective moments, and a creepy atmosphere, and Essie Davis really is quite good as the mother, demonstrating a hell of a range in a single performance.

Overall, however, I found "The Babadook" to be something of a disappointment. I just didn't feel that it covered much fresh ground. Also, the Babadook itself wasn't that creepy-looking to me. It just looked like a slightly more sinister version of Jack White.

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