The Babadook Screen 26 articles

The Babadook


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  • The film sets up at least three explanations for its horror: rational-psychological (it's all in the mother's head); supernatural (there really is a bad spirit); and something in-between (dead Dad in the basement needs to be grieved). It keeps hopping from one level to the other, depending on which effect it needs: shock, pathos, 'art film' resonance. But this is (for me, at least) too much hesitation, too much equivocation; there is no centre to the movie, only endless 'switchings'.

  • These complex emotions inform Kent's sympathetic survey of depression and parental angst, but they also serve as an unfortunately literal explanation for the monster's presence. What began as an enigmatic, polysemous force is dumbed down into an unimaginative metaphor, hindering the film's capacity to provoke true fear.

  • To these eyes, the only thing that really distinguishes [The Babadook] or elevates it (slightly) above the studio-financed spawn of James Wan is that it wears its thriftiness like a merit badge while also politely declining the brutal violence and gore usually favoured by cheapjack genre filmmakers. These strategies give the impression of seriousness and subtlety. But, like the canted camera angles favoured by Kent’s cinematographer Radek Ladczuk, it’s a carefully forced perspective.

  • In many ways the film is like an Australian companion piece to The Conjuring... Kent adds a deft visual style, and fleshes out a familiar yet distinctive children’s boogeyman character, tying his existence to the emotional discord that exists between the mother and son. The result is a refreshing, and not gory, approach to horror that scores high on the scare-meter.

  • Despite the occasional silly moment, Kent’s film is the real deal. The Babadook features a number of genuinely unsettling scenes (embarrassing disclosure: I checked the closets and under the bed before I tried to sleep that night), but it also packs an emotional punch. That’s mostly due to Davis’s truly shape-shifting performance...

  • This sleek, Australian frightener has a dull, near-monochromatic palette and a muted, muffled quality that suggests that life itself is leaching out of the claustrophobic world on screen... Jennifer Kent, making her feature-film directing debut, has a lot of fun playing with horror clichés that she freshens up partly by refusing to establish whether “The Babadook” is a haunted-house movie, a haunted-human one or something in between.

  • Kent’s grim fandango takes its cues not from more recent (and banal) Western chillers like The Conjuring or the dry ice pageant Insidious, but from the nostalgic primalism of directors like Hideo Nakata and Takashi Shimizu. The film eschews pedestrian shocks in favour of slow-burn dread before finally cranking everything up for a witty and unexpected finale.

  • Way, way too thematically blunt to be frightening—it's the inexplicable that terrifies me, and this film practically writes its own doctoral thesis, "Festering Grief And Post-Traumatic Transference As Id Monster In Contemporary Australian Horror." Which is a shame, because Kent demonstrates a keen understanding of how to wreak havoc via unsettling compositions and jarring cuts, and her two lead actors are both deliriously unhinged.

  • A spooky, powerful exploration of murderous maternal rage, writer-director Jennifer Kent’s domestic-horror movie The Babadook satisfyingly pierces the obscene sanctification of “mommyhood”—a pathological mandate that seems to have become an irreversible cultural imperative.

  • Central shift works in the Unforgiven style of 'Be careful what you wish for', since we (or I) did long for the heroine to become a strong parent (just not this kind of parent), the Babadook bringing out her resentment of the child, though not so much her sexual frustration, beyond that vaginal opening in the wall oozing bugs. Incidental question: are male filmmakers actually 'afraid' of female masturbation, or do they just not care?

  • Kent never makes Samuel the active cause of his mother's torment. He did not select the book from the shelf as part of some long-gestating "gaslight" strategy. He is just as afraid, even more so, of this dark, violent entity. In making Samuel a frightened, confused kid - which is what he obviously would be in the situation - Kent implicitly refutes the deeply offensive "bad seed" / "demon kid" horseshit of films like Joshua and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

  • Actress-turned-debuting-feature-director Jennifer Kent has the narrative chutzpah to show her entire hand in the pop-up story and then make us squirm as foretold events come true... The Babadook is femalecentric in ways that other horror movies, while often dominated by tough "final girls," rarely are. It's a tale in which the real terror might have already happened; parents should brace themselves.

  • Steeped in references to early cinema, magic and classic fairy tales — which, at times, causes it to feel like a scary-movie version of “Hugo” — this meticulously designed and directed debut feature from writer-director Jennifer Kent (expanded from her award-winning short, “Monster”) manages to deliver real, seat-grabbing jolts while also touching on more serious themes of loss, grief and other demons that can not be so easily vanquished.

  • ...Jennifer Kent’s uncanny, driving psychodrama The Babadook, with a remarkable performance by child actor Noah Wiseman...

  • As the film gathers steam, it becomes thrillingly apparent that this seemingly rote setup is in service of an astonishingly assured experiment—a two-way prism of narrative layering that draws out its leads' fractured psyches and reflects them in the jagged remnants of the genre trappings audiences have been conditioned to expect. It's a shattering psychological study whose supernatural aspect is a mere catalyst or perhaps even misdirection.

  • Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is a fascinating blend of intense family psychodrama and bite-your-fingernails-off spook-show. Through the use of basic special effects and evocatively bleak production design, Kent conjures a world that is equally realistic and nightmarish.

  • Impressed though I am by writer-director Jennifer Kent's technique, with cutting and framing that consistently amplify the terror, I'm most awed (and deeply upset) by her ideas and the eloquence with which she articulates them throughout the story. This is, without hyperbole, among the most dead-on movies about depression I've ever experienced.

  • The two actors and the house itself make a grim impression, albeit with traces of dark humor. Davis’s performance gets across a visceral sense of the experience of grief, terribly distant and yet tenderly sensitive to stress, finally erupting into rage against her son. The precocious Wiseman finds fresh nuances in the irrepressible character of Samuel, an oddball who’s concerned for but also wary of his mother in her confused state.

  • Few horror films equal [The Shining]—or now, indeed, [The Babadook]—for intelligently addressing terror’s source in childhood-related nature of terror, and for depicting the family as an inescapable place of terror rather than a shelter from it. Among bad-parenting frighteners, The Babadook earns a place of honor, steeped as it is in a history not just of horror cinema, but of Freudian interpretations of horror narrative in general (you can bet Kent is up on her Bettelheim).

  • [It] is, in my opinion, the finest and most genuinely provocative horror movie to emerge in this still very-new century. Both a relentless psychological thriller with heavy primal stuff on its mind and a full-throttle slam-bang scare-fest, it delivers raw sensation without insulting the intelligence the way the more sensationalist but also essentially trite pictures in the New Horror Paradigm along the lines of “Insidious” tend to do.

  • With this frightening, seemingly simple story of a children’s book monster come to fearsome life, Kent burrows into the mindscape of two people—a mother and son—contending with delayed post-trauma; it’s an intelligently conceived and surprisingly poignant character study that never sacrifices any of its scares as it grasps for drama.

  • Sometimes you go to a movie and know from the first image that whoever made it knows what she’s doing. You don’t need convincing. You’re there with her. Jennifer Kent’sThe Babadook is like that. It’s her first full-length film, but it’s made with ruthless intent. The editing comes in quick, sharp slaps. She doesn’t waste a panning shot. Kent keeps you on edge for 93 minutes.

  • As unsettling as David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE and as claustrophobic as Roman Polanski's REPULSION, Kent's directorial feature debut is a much needed adrenaline shot to the arm of the horror genre; a film that owes more to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Mario Bava, and Dario Argento than to the recent trend towards torture porn.

  • The Babadook is a boldly difficult film to watch, as it connects one directly and inexorably to a mother's sense of hopelessness and to her blossoming hatred of her son. It often feels as if director Jennifer Kent is on the verge of exposing something deeply taboo and unnerving about the ugly primordial emotions that parents must suppress in order to raise their children, and this is her greatest achievement.

  • Wake in Fright may be the quintessential Australian film and some may argue that it is, in its own way, a horror film. The Babadook however, shifts perceptions and let us in on a version of the country rarely screened... A psychological mind bender that tackles the horrors of motherhood in the face of isolation and gendered expectations, The Babadook stands out as one of the best horror films of the past decade.

  • Whether it has enough narrative material to fill 95 minutes is debatable, but that’s never stopped up-and-comers before. Jennifer Kent clearly studied her vintage Polanski thrillers, not just for the claustrophobia, horror, and paranoid hallucinations, but for the morbid sense of humor. (It also can’t be a coincidence that the maternal heroine bares a striking resemblance to Mia Farrow, Rosemary herself).

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