The Babadook ★★★★

"The Babadook… dook... dook!" "The Babadook… dook... dook!"

What a terrifying ride this film is; I highly recommend it.

I loved the art design: the grey-blue-black darkness of their ramshackle home, those antique wooden wardrobes, that creaky concrete basement…they all provide a perfect backdrop for a haunting modern fairy tale, offering a strong contrast to the primary prop of the big red pop-up book.

Bettleheim would be proud of the psychological depth here, too. How should a family deal with grief? Is escape into fantasy tales the answer? Enforced sleep? Familial advice? Visits from friends and neighbours? "The Babadook" does not give an answer, but it does present options.

And dangers….

The editing, too, is great, in particular the inter-cutting of magic shows, cartoons, and horror & noir film clips with the situations going on in the house. In this technique, Kent finds an ideal way to blur the line between fantasy and reality, which is - of course - the primary motif of the film.

Finally, the acting: I found Essie Davis' descent-possession entirely convincing; she manifests both the good mother and the evil witch of classic fairy tales, which makes their juxtaposition - all in one entity - that much more disturbing. And poor little Sam. He's such a trooper yet so very, very damaged. I found myself empathizing with him more than I did with Amelia, which might be somewhat of a drawback in the later stages of the film, as it could disrupt the suspension of disbelief in the climatic moments, especially given that she's the protagonist of the film with whom we've (ostensibly) been identifying - and sympathizing - to that point.

However, I think that Kent offers enough justification within the narrative for the vicissitudes of Amelia's character, and so even at her worst, even as we brace ourselves for her most horrifying acts and screeches, we simultaneously root for things to change.

For Sam's ropes to hold. For the basement locks to work. For the worms to appease...

It is the vulnerability of the child, however, that renders "The Babadook" most terrifying. And thus the garden party resolution feels about as happy, as real, and as comfortable as a nightmare. We are left there, wondering when we'll wake up, imagining where the big red book is, knowing that the line between fantasy and reality is tenuous, and recalling that foreboding catchy tag-line: "if it's in a word, or if it's in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook."

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