Friday, October 2, 2015

The Babadook (2014)

I had heard that The Babadook was kind of a sleeper hit, so I decided to give it a watch. Ostensibly about a monster that comes from a children's bedtime story (I want to say a really twisted bedtime story, but if you consider the original Grimm's Fairy Tales, I guess some people don't have any qualms about scaring little children), it's really more of an unflattering portrait of mental illness. (Which I guess is to say that it's more "realistic" than glorified). I don't really consider this a spoiler, as there are some things that happen in the movie that don't make much sense unless you consider it from this perspective, and frankly, I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if I hadn't been expecting something a little different.

That having been said, there is a monster in this movie, and it's pretty neat. Unfortunately, that's the best thing I can say about the movie. The actors all perform adequately - if not exceptionally - but I guess the problem is that there really aren't any likable characters. The main character (an engrossing Essie Davis), a single mother raising her son after an accident that killed her husband seven years ago on her way to give birth, is sympathetic enough at the start, until she starts to go batshit insane. At that point, you're presumably supposed to side with her son (Noah Wiseman), but he has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most annoying snot-nosed brats in movie history. He's screaming all the time, he won't leave his mother alone, plus he likes to build his own weapons (like a backpack catapult) and bring them to school to terrorize the other kids with, all while talking about imaginary monsters that (you hope) don't exist. You kind of want to see him eaten by some sinister, shadow creature. Or at least given a good spanking and then sent off to the behavioral disorder ward.

The rest of the characters should be relatable in that they criticize the main characters when they do crazy shit, except that they just come off like assholes themselves. The only two redeemable characters (mom's co-worker, and their elderly neighbor) have barely any screen time at all. Altogether, it's a thoroughly unsettling movie - which I guess is a good thing; after all, this is horror. But it's also a kind of unsatisfying movie, especially taking the peculiar ending into mind. Did I mention that it is very British? Obviously, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's something I wasn't expecting, that I noticed very quickly after I started watching it. It also has a very quirky idiosyncrasy to its style, but not necessarily one I can say that I liked. It has a few things going for it, and, like I said, I might enjoy it more on another watch, with a mind to the madness instead of the monster, but then again, I don't relish sitting through another hour or two of these characters' lives...

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