Babadook
I've heard more than enough of praise and joyous speakings regarding "The Babadook", the Australian psychological horror film directed and written by Jennifer Kent that released just last year in November. It seemed as if everyone and their mother were talking about how good it was, not wanting to shed the smallest of doubt on the film's genius and story telling, along with its horror chops. Just last night, I got the chance to watch this film due to its calling on Netflix, and I can tell you that I came away a little more than disappointed.

The film revolves around Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) both being haunted by a dark entity known as Mister Babadook after Amelia reads Samuel a mysterious book from her son's bookshelf. After being creeped out and disturbed by the book (and possibly scarring her son for life), she discards in in favor for another. As horror stories go, strange events start happening around the house, and her estranged boy becomes even more off put by obsessing over this Mister Babadook, promising to kill it.

I will say that the first half of the film was rather engaging; it had a very wonderful build up that was more suspenseful than anything else. Essie Davis did a fantastic job showing off a mother who was losing sleep to her disobedient child who never stopped going off about a supposedly fake monster through facial expressions alone, and the makeup crew did a phenomenal job making sure she looked just as bad as her character was supposed to feel.

However, it was not only the loss of sleep that was slowly driving her to go mad, but it was also the loss of her husband several years ago. Still struggling with grief, she missed her husband dearly so, and any mention of him set her off in a negative manner. Not her child nor sister Claire nor elderly neighbor Mrs. Roach could mention him else she would become very shut out. Throw in the dark entity from the children's book Mister Babadook, and you have quite a character transformation from caring mother to distraught and distressed woman. Essie Davis did a lovely job showing off her character, and praise should be given to her for her skill, but then we have the rest of the movie to talk about.

Noah Wiseman as Samuel was quite the mistake, I would believe. Either that, or it was just poor directing choice in making him scream throughout the film and not really use anything but a whiny voice to show off his character. He was meant to be a troubled child who missed his father, but also believed that Mister Babadook was alive and well. It was shown in certain parts well, such as how he pushed his cousin Ruby (out of a treehouse for mentioning that he doesn't deserve a father and teasing him about the Babadook.

That showcased both a boy who needed mental help but who also couldn't restrain himself from violent antics; it also strained the relationship between Essie and her sister Claire, furthermore putting tension on the mother. However, as I said, when Wiseman wasn't dong his little whiny screaming throughout the film, he was just quiet, or breaking something, or otherwise being an incoherent little brat. By the time the end of the movie rolled around, I really, really had no care for this character and kind of hoped that the Babadook would have gotten him.

There were also a few unfleshed elements within the film. When Daniel Henshall appeared in the film, I got very excited; his portrayal as John Bunting in 2011's "Snowtown" led me to know that he was a great, great actor who deserved a bigger role. Either way, he played an orderly at an elderly person's home, making him a coworker of Essie. He had a sort of romantic attachment to Essie, but after seeing the way Samuel and she acted together, he didn't make another screen appearance. I think if his character was much more appropriated in the film, he could have acted as a counter balance and stabilization to Essie's deteriorating mind due to her still grieving over her husband's death. But, alas, that was not meant to be, and poor Henshall's acting chops were not put to any great use as they should have been. Pity.

Also, there was definitely shown a bit of a dislike between Essie and her boss, and after an intense phone conversation which I presume would be her boss, she stopped going to work. You can assume that she got fired, but that was another element in the story that really wasn't fully pulled through. Rather than getting fired for being late, a simple spasm at her workplace regarding Mister Babadook and scaring the elderly could have served as a way of her being terminated from her job. That was another lost cause, in my opinion, and something that really wasn't needed in the film.

All this ranting leads me down to the most major character in the film, or at least should have been, Mister Babadook himself. The way he talked was meant to be spooky and scary, but if you're a metalhead in the slightest or enjoy your dark electronic music with distorted vocals, you'll find this attempt at vocal manipulation good, but something that should go along with the backing beat of a harsh EBM song.

When he makes his first appearance, it was interesting, but wasn't the best, either. Claymation was used to show the character in his top hat, pale white skin, creepy smile, and long coat. Anybody who has ever seen either a claymation produced or made by Tim Burton should not find this scary at all, and if they do, then they don't deserve to be watching Tim Burton films in the first place. However, I do think the reason they use this is because he does come from a children's book, and there is no better way to show off a children's character than by making him out of clay.

But, yes, as I was saying, his movements were pretty standard for the horror genre. From hardly ever being seen, sticking to the shadows, climbing on the ceiling, and even doing a sort of POV of Mister Babadook was all cliche and none too impressive. This was a character who was meant to be scary, but failed to actually make my skin crawl. I think the music build up from Jed Kurzel was decently done, but it really didn't leave a high mark in my mind just due to the action on screen failing to impress me.

Anyway, as the story builds up, there are scarcely any real horror moments, and most of it is just suspense. When the final half hour comes around, there is finally room to get the horror vibe going, with a sort of final showdown between Mister Babadook, Essie, and Samuel playing off. Oh, and, this goes as a fair warning: If you don't like dogs being killed in movies, avoid this film.

A few more cliches come out here, such as possession, trickery, and a little love playing roles. What did get me a little excited was this sort of "Home Alone" set up that went on, pinning Samuel against Mister Babadook through the weapons and traps he set up. However, for all his planning, there was about three things that he had going off of, and nothing more. You could argue that it was because he was only 6, but you could also argue that any 6 year old who was smart enough to set up three weapons and traps would have made a lot, lot more.

Pair this with an ending that was interesting but letting down, "Babadook" comes to an end. There is symbolism in this film, definitely, which has had some scholars writing about it. However, the symbolism is crisp and clear and doesn't necessarily need huge dissection. Mister Babadook represents the grief that Essie is going through due to her husband's death and the anniversary of her husband's death coming up (which is also the same day Samuel was born). And that is as simple as that; without giving away too many spoilers, you can come up with your own theory as to what actions represent what.

But, in the end, despite having a strong lead character through Essie Davis, everything else chips away slowly as the film goes on. There was a lot of promise held within this film, and I was attached during the beginning, but through too many disappointments and the center-horror figure being nothing more than something to laugh at, "The Babadook" is a children's tale that should have never been taken off the shelf in the first place.

5/10
3
Brutal Resonance

Babadook

5.0
"Mediocre"
Genre: Horror
I've heard more than enough of praise and joyous speakings regarding "The Babadook", the Australian psychological horror film directed and written by Jennifer Kent that released just last year in November. It seemed as if everyone and their mother were talking about how good it was, not wanting to shed the smallest of doubt on the film's genius and story telling, along with its horror chops. Just last night, I got the chance to watch this film due to its calling on Netflix, and I can tell you that I came away a little more than disappointed.

The film revolves around Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) both being haunted by a dark entity known as Mister Babadook after Amelia reads Samuel a mysterious book from her son's bookshelf. After being creeped out and disturbed by the book (and possibly scarring her son for life), she discards in in favor for another. As horror stories go, strange events start happening around the house, and her estranged boy becomes even more off put by obsessing over this Mister Babadook, promising to kill it.

I will say that the first half of the film was rather engaging; it had a very wonderful build up that was more suspenseful than anything else. Essie Davis did a fantastic job showing off a mother who was losing sleep to her disobedient child who never stopped going off about a supposedly fake monster through facial expressions alone, and the makeup crew did a phenomenal job making sure she looked just as bad as her character was supposed to feel.

However, it was not only the loss of sleep that was slowly driving her to go mad, but it was also the loss of her husband several years ago. Still struggling with grief, she missed her husband dearly so, and any mention of him set her off in a negative manner. Not her child nor sister Claire nor elderly neighbor Mrs. Roach could mention him else she would become very shut out. Throw in the dark entity from the children's book Mister Babadook, and you have quite a character transformation from caring mother to distraught and distressed woman. Essie Davis did a lovely job showing off her character, and praise should be given to her for her skill, but then we have the rest of the movie to talk about.

Noah Wiseman as Samuel was quite the mistake, I would believe. Either that, or it was just poor directing choice in making him scream throughout the film and not really use anything but a whiny voice to show off his character. He was meant to be a troubled child who missed his father, but also believed that Mister Babadook was alive and well. It was shown in certain parts well, such as how he pushed his cousin Ruby (out of a treehouse for mentioning that he doesn't deserve a father and teasing him about the Babadook.

That showcased both a boy who needed mental help but who also couldn't restrain himself from violent antics; it also strained the relationship between Essie and her sister Claire, furthermore putting tension on the mother. However, as I said, when Wiseman wasn't dong his little whiny screaming throughout the film, he was just quiet, or breaking something, or otherwise being an incoherent little brat. By the time the end of the movie rolled around, I really, really had no care for this character and kind of hoped that the Babadook would have gotten him.

There were also a few unfleshed elements within the film. When Daniel Henshall appeared in the film, I got very excited; his portrayal as John Bunting in 2011's "Snowtown" led me to know that he was a great, great actor who deserved a bigger role. Either way, he played an orderly at an elderly person's home, making him a coworker of Essie. He had a sort of romantic attachment to Essie, but after seeing the way Samuel and she acted together, he didn't make another screen appearance. I think if his character was much more appropriated in the film, he could have acted as a counter balance and stabilization to Essie's deteriorating mind due to her still grieving over her husband's death. But, alas, that was not meant to be, and poor Henshall's acting chops were not put to any great use as they should have been. Pity.

Also, there was definitely shown a bit of a dislike between Essie and her boss, and after an intense phone conversation which I presume would be her boss, she stopped going to work. You can assume that she got fired, but that was another element in the story that really wasn't fully pulled through. Rather than getting fired for being late, a simple spasm at her workplace regarding Mister Babadook and scaring the elderly could have served as a way of her being terminated from her job. That was another lost cause, in my opinion, and something that really wasn't needed in the film.

All this ranting leads me down to the most major character in the film, or at least should have been, Mister Babadook himself. The way he talked was meant to be spooky and scary, but if you're a metalhead in the slightest or enjoy your dark electronic music with distorted vocals, you'll find this attempt at vocal manipulation good, but something that should go along with the backing beat of a harsh EBM song.

When he makes his first appearance, it was interesting, but wasn't the best, either. Claymation was used to show the character in his top hat, pale white skin, creepy smile, and long coat. Anybody who has ever seen either a claymation produced or made by Tim Burton should not find this scary at all, and if they do, then they don't deserve to be watching Tim Burton films in the first place. However, I do think the reason they use this is because he does come from a children's book, and there is no better way to show off a children's character than by making him out of clay.

But, yes, as I was saying, his movements were pretty standard for the horror genre. From hardly ever being seen, sticking to the shadows, climbing on the ceiling, and even doing a sort of POV of Mister Babadook was all cliche and none too impressive. This was a character who was meant to be scary, but failed to actually make my skin crawl. I think the music build up from Jed Kurzel was decently done, but it really didn't leave a high mark in my mind just due to the action on screen failing to impress me.

Anyway, as the story builds up, there are scarcely any real horror moments, and most of it is just suspense. When the final half hour comes around, there is finally room to get the horror vibe going, with a sort of final showdown between Mister Babadook, Essie, and Samuel playing off. Oh, and, this goes as a fair warning: If you don't like dogs being killed in movies, avoid this film.

A few more cliches come out here, such as possession, trickery, and a little love playing roles. What did get me a little excited was this sort of "Home Alone" set up that went on, pinning Samuel against Mister Babadook through the weapons and traps he set up. However, for all his planning, there was about three things that he had going off of, and nothing more. You could argue that it was because he was only 6, but you could also argue that any 6 year old who was smart enough to set up three weapons and traps would have made a lot, lot more.

Pair this with an ending that was interesting but letting down, "Babadook" comes to an end. There is symbolism in this film, definitely, which has had some scholars writing about it. However, the symbolism is crisp and clear and doesn't necessarily need huge dissection. Mister Babadook represents the grief that Essie is going through due to her husband's death and the anniversary of her husband's death coming up (which is also the same day Samuel was born). And that is as simple as that; without giving away too many spoilers, you can come up with your own theory as to what actions represent what.

But, in the end, despite having a strong lead character through Essie Davis, everything else chips away slowly as the film goes on. There was a lot of promise held within this film, and I was attached during the beginning, but through too many disappointments and the center-horror figure being nothing more than something to laugh at, "The Babadook" is a children's tale that should have never been taken off the shelf in the first place.

5/10
Apr 24 2015

Steven Gullotta

info@brutalresonance.com
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.

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