Monday 23 September 2019

The Babadook - 'easily the best horror movie of recent years'

The Babadook
The Babadook
The Babadook
The Babadook

George Byrne

Horror. Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West. Directed by Jennifer Kent. Cert 15A

****

Tis the season for ghosties and ghoulies to come crawling out of the dark to scare the bejaysus out of us and in recent weeks there’s been no shortage of movies aiming to do just that.

Last week we had the by-the-numbers ghost train ride of Annabelle and next week sees Ouija hit the multiplexes, but The Babadook is a different class of beast entirely.

Written and directed by Australian actor Jennifer Kent, the film does adhere to the basic rules of the horror genre but adds discreet but telling touches which elevate it way above standard jump-shock tactics which have become the default setting for far too many contemporary chillers.

Essie Davis gives a terrific performance as Amelia, a widowed nurse who’s finding it difficult to cope with her hyperactive son Sam (Noah Wiseman, also excellent), a six year-old obsessed with magic who creates weapons to deal with the monsters he claims are lurking in the dark.

With Sam causing problems at school, Amelia becomes increasingly alienated from friends and family, with matters taking a distinct turn for the worse when she reads her son a story about a creature called The Babadook, the very arrival of the book itself being something of a mystery.

Within days there are strange occurrences around the house — and even away from home, which make things even scarier — and she herself begins to fear that things are not merely figments of her son’s imagination.

Rather brilliantly, Kent keeps the shocks and musical cues to a bare minimum, letting the viewer become thoroughly involved in a story of a woman gradually unravelling in the face of terrifying events.

There are elements of The Shining and Repulsion scattered throughout proceedings, but what’s been delivered here is a potent brew of psychological terror mixed with a genuinely spooky story, making The Babadook easily the best horror movie of recent years.

WATCH: The Movie Show: Brad Pitt's WWII flick 'Fury' and terrifying horror 'The Babadook'

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