The Babadook – Australia, 2014

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‘If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t rid of…’

The Babadook is a 2014 Australian horror film written and directed by Jennifer Kent for Causeway Films. It stars Essie Davis, Hayley McElhinney and Daniel Hanshall. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, held in Utah, in January 2014 and has received mostly favourable review since. Whilst The Babadook was Jennifer’s Kent’s debut feature, many of its key themes and elements were in her 2005 short Monster (scroll down to watch on Vimeo).

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Six years after the death of her husband, Amelia struggles to discipline her “out-of-control” six-year-old Samuel – a son she finds difficult to love. Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called “The Babadook” turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about.

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And when Amelia begins to see glimpses of the creature herself, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may well be real…

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Reviews:

Psycho, Alien, Diabolique, and now The Babadook. I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” William Friedkin (director of The Exorcist) via Twitter

“The Babadook manifests in various forms – at one point, popping up on late-night television in the middle of a Georges Méliès film – strutting and baring teeth like a hideous mix of Struwwelpeter, Nosferatu, Willy Wonka, Freddy Krueger and the Child Catcher. One of the strongest, most effective horror films of recent years — with awards-quality lead work from Essie Davis, and a brilliantly designed new monster who could well become the break-out spook archetype of the decade.” Kim Newman, Empire Magazine

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“I just wish that Kent had tightened up that last act a bit. Her chops are extraordinary, though, and The Babadook will definitely give nightmares to many viewers. It’s a movie that uses dread and suspense, not cheap jump scares. It’s also a movie that unsettles with deep psychological unpleasantness. And it’s got a pretty killer title, as well.” Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

“The part of any horror movie that always seems to go wrong is the ending. Very rarely is there a satisfying conclusion to these kinds of films, but The Babadook gives us an ending that fans of the genre will love and be proud of. There’s some awesome tension and dread that builds throughout the whole film, and the payoff of it all is brilliant.” Joey Paur, Geek Tyrant

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“Stronger in terms of its psychological unease than its fright factor, the film may spark comparison with last year’s bracing retro surprise, The Conjuring. At the risk of giving too much away, it also messes with the most sacred of familial bonds, featuring another mother gulping down a mouthful of bad energy and turning ugly on her kid.” David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

“Taunt, tense and dripping in claustrophobic atmosphere, Kent’s walking nightmare certainly shares its psychological horror DNA with Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), which it has been compared to – but also Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 horror hybrid Possession, as witnessed in the manifested malevolent entity (brought on by Amelia and Sam’s unresolved traumas).” Peter Fuller, Kultguy’s Keep

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“Like many others, I did pick up on The Babadook as being a metaphor for grief and mental health. Essie Davis’s fantastic performance is a credit to writer and director Jennifer Kent‘s creation. Together they bring to life, in some respects, an even more terrifying monster in the form of Amelia’s breakdown and aggressive acts – uncomfortable viewing if you are a dog lover – and it gets worse…” Step Into Film

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“Amelia is a new iteration of the tormented female protagonists synonymous with ’60s and ’70s horror, the era Kent most consistently channels. To this end, The Babadook often feels like a compression of Roman Polanski’s “apartment trilogy,” minus the sardonic male perspective.” Abhimanyu Das, Slant Magazine

” …begins as a nerve-scraping parable of grief; it becomes truly terrifying, however, when the subject shifts to how quickly parental love can turn to hate. It’s a monster movie in which everyone takes turns being the monster.” Sam Adams, Rolling Stone

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Kent has created a hybrid picture that attacks the viewer on multiple fronts. The Babadook is the monster whose reach extends beyond the closet, and its wrath manifests in unexpected and terrifying ways.  But Kent never rushes the terror, and the dread is palatable throughout the story. Radoslaw Ladczuk’s effective cinematography adds to the moody atmosphere with its heavy use of shadow and stark contrasts.” Matt Goldberg, Collider

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The Babadook rivals the recent work of James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) in its ability to goose an audience with old-fashioned sound effects, shadow play and the power of suggestion.” Scott Foundas, Variety

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“Skilfully directed, the film is perfectly poised between real and unreal and manages to be both emotionally rich and disturbingly creepy, remaining ambiguous to the end. The Babadook is a great new monster, both childish and chilling with its striking silhouette and unnerving cry. Under its spell, roles shift to reveal that things may not be as straightforward as they had first appeared. Virginie Sélavy.” Electric Sheep

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” …it’s testament to Kent’s work that it never feels derivative. Take The Babadook himself – with his white and black stained face and staccato movements, he feels like he belongs to world of Dr. Caligari or Nosferatu – but Kent succeeds in bringing him into the 21st century, making a film that feels simultaneously reverent of these traditions and excitingly fresh.” Daniel Krupa, IGN

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Jennifer Kent’s short film Monster:

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8 Comments on “The Babadook – Australia, 2014”

  1. A good film with a really interesting allegorical storyline. I think it was quite an important story to tell touching on grief and post-natal depression in the way that it does but, through no fault of the film itself, the whole miasma of hyperbole that surrounded it really got on my nuts. You hear straight up horse shit like ‘Life Defining’ and “masterpiece.’ Do people feel that they’re not doing their job if the they don’t overstretch their praise of something into the realms of blatant lies. It was a good film; will I ever watch it again….personally? probably not – is it a “masterpiece” or a classic for the ages? No, like I said, it’s a good film. It came, did a good job in its slightly interesting German impressionistic manner (a tit that Tim ‘Masterpiece Maker’ Burton has been doing for as long as he’s been hiring Depp) then bye-bye off it pops into the ether.

  2. The babadook was referenced in “American Horror Story” season 3, in reference to voodoo magic and such but I can’t find anything that explains its origins.

  3. Can you tell us where the term ‘Babadook’ originated from because there are no references to this on the internet or in a Thesaurus.

    1. I believe this is an original monster. The “Babadook” is interesting in regards to the themes of the movie. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first to syllables of the name “Babadook” sound like an affectionate name for ‘father’ (papa) in many cultures.

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