The Babadook ★★★★

I've been trying to decide lately if I should ding a movie for having an obvious or unsubtle metaphor as part of its story or plot. And the big decision I've reached is ... it depends on the movie. The Babadook, for instance, concerns itself with what I'm sure are every prospective parent's nightmares -- what if my partner dies or leaves? what if I wind up hating my kid? -- and it does so with a subtlety akin to a sack of potatoes upside the head. But does that make it a lesser film as a result?

Nah. Particularly not in a film as intimate, honest, and visceral as this, and particularly not in one so expertly crafted. Jennifer Kent directs this with a minimum of flash or fuss, using simple set-ups and compositions, combined with swift and efficient editing, to create the tension and dread she's looking to engender in the audience. And she does so with a control and confidence one doesn't often see in someone's feature debut. The performances are likewise excellent; Essie Davis gives off just the right combination of warmth, irritation, and weariness, and young Noah Wiseman treads the thin line between adorable moppet and terrifying hell-child. And some really strong creature design doesn't hurt, either.

I know I'm late on this one, but if you're like me and haven't gotten around to The Babadook yet, do so.