Jennifer Kent’s horror is as masterful as it was when it was released seven years ago. The Babadook is a film that utilises its multiple themes to bring us as tense a horror film as you can imagine. Thanks to Second Sight Films, we have the chance to relish and celebrate this wonderful and unforgettable film. An unmissable film in an unmissable package.
Following the violent death of her husband on the day their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was born, Amelia (Essie Davis) struggles with his erratic behaviour. She is still battling with the never-ending grief. Refusing to celebrate Samuel’s birthday as it’s inextricably linked to such a traumatic time, life is a struggle and the one person who’s always been there for her, her sister (Hayley McElhinne) patience is wearing thin. As Samuel’s seventh birthday approaches, his fears get worse, he’s convinced a monster is coming to get them, and he won’t settle, no matter how many bedtime stories he’s told. When an intriguing storybook appears on the bookshelf, Samuel becomes convinced that the Babadook is the monstrous creature he’s always feared. As Amelia senses the ominous presence herself, she slowly begins to unravel.
Seven years later, there are still aspects to The Babadook that surprise you. No one who goes into the film ever sees what pops up on that screen coming is key to how successful and noteworthy it has since become. For most audiences who caught the trailer, you expect a run of the mill supernatural horror involving a mother and her son. Yet thanks to Jennifer Kent, we are giving a film that has so much depth and layers to it that you leave almost a little numb, and that is a marvellous thing.
The Babadook catches your breath as we watch a mother and, more importantly, a person struggles with the pressures of caring for a troubled child while being consumed by the darkness of a memory that you cannot shake. By presenting her characters as real people instead of the standard cookie-cutter characters we usually get. You at times almost forget you are watching a horror film; instead you are witnessing a drama about a person who has for several years been struggling with trauma and unresolved grief. When we add in the anxiety issues of Samuel, we have quite a compelling film, and that is before we even venture into what is happening with that book. When care and attention are given to the story, it allows those horrific moments to hit so much harder, and with The Babadook, they smash you.
Scenes such as that heartbreaking car scene stay with you and torment you just as much as the horror, and with a screenplay, as finely tuned as what we have here, it allows the rest of the piece to excel. The expert use of shadows, even in the non-scary moments, allows for that continual sense of tension and foreboding to come over you, as if Amelia and Samuel’s world is closing in on them and there isn’t much anyone can do to help them. So when the Babadook does eventually show, we are well adjusted to the darkness and lighting, and it isn’t a dead giveaway that the presence is there.
Essie Davis is astonishing here in this psychological supernatural horror as a mother who is one broken thread away from losing all of her mental state. But, unfortunately, her performance drags you in as you just wish that she can sort herself and thus her child out in time before either the Babadook or the social services get to young Samuel first.
Equally, Noah Wiseman is on another level for a child actor as he toes that line of being the most irritating child on the planet and the one that you just want to hug and tell that everything is going to be alright. He is relentless throughout, and you feel for Essie as you are not quite sure how you would handle him either. A troubled boy who reels you in with a truly remarkable performance.
As a good horror film should, The Babadook stays with you; Kent delivers a film that is full of nuance and human, even when we are afraid of a creepy character from a children’s book. We are left with a film with two standout performances and a director who should see so much more from down the line.
• 4K / Blu-ray dual-format release
• 4K mastered by the original post-production facility and presented in HDR10
• Audio Commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson
• This Is My House!: An interview with Essie Davis
• The Sister: an interview with Hayley McElhinney
• Don’t Let It In: An interview with Kristina Ceyton
• Conjuring Nightmares: An interview with Kristian Moliere
• Shaping Darkness: an interview with Simon Njoo
• If It’s in a Name or a Look: an interview with Alex Holmes
• The Bookmaker: an interview with Alexander Juhasz
• Ba-Ba-Ba…Dook!: An interview with Jed Kurzel
• Monster: short film
• They Call Him Mister Babadook: The Making Of
• There’s No Place Like Home: Creating the House
• Special Effects: Stabbing Scene
• The Stunts
• Illustrating Evil: Creating the Book
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Peter Diamond
• 150-page hardback book with new essays by Daniel Bird, Anna Bogutskaya, Kat Ellinger, Rich Johnson, Jon Towlson and Laura Venning, archive interview with Jennifer Kent, production stills and original artwork concepts.
• 6 collectors’ art cards
While we don’t get a commentary from Kent or anyone from the production, we have a great one from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson. They throw out a tonne of information for us to divulge, which makes up for the loss of the principal players.
We are also treated to 8 great interviews that cover a lot more ground than you would expect, with Essie Davis and Hayley McElhinney covering the acting side. First, of course, Davis piece is great, and we get a glimpse of the process and difficulties entailed with playing such a draining role as Amelia. Next, we move through to the producers side of the film, which allows us to see the scope of the film and what it entailed. Those looking for a bit more behind the scenes will be pleased with these, and another piece brought up later on.
From here, we get more to the production side with insights from editor Simon Njoo, production designer Alex Holmes and the creator of the dreaded book itself, Alexander Juhasz. They all bring that extra comments that would be given to producers and thus would not be as detailed. Here they all get a moment to shine, and composer Jed Kurzel helps in fleshing out the entire set.
Happily, we get some time with director Jennifer Kent in making the piece, which shows her enthusiasm as a filmmaker and her ability to get her vision across in such a vivid and realistic manner. Anyone who has seen The Nightingale will know that Kent is very consistent in that regard. The making moves along at a great pace like most extras and is easily rewatchable. A lovely edtion to the release is Kent’s original short Monster. You see, so much of what eventually became The Babadook within those 10 minutes.
Overall, Second Sight have done what they do best, and you almost take for granted how good they are at bringing us these exceptional releases. Another knockout of a set and one that will please the genre fan without a shadow of a doubt.
Overall Limited Addition release rating
Get your copy of The Babadook here
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