A family in trauma in THE BABADOOK
A family in trauma in THE BABADOOK

Once upon a time, Amelia was being rushed to hospital by her husband, Oscar, for the birth of their baby. A collision, and death collected Daddy.  Mummy delivered a son, Samuel.

Seven years on, Samuel is “in the spectrum”, Amelia is working in a geriatric home. She grieves the loss of her husband still, persevering to find maternal purchase with her son.

Samuel is haunted by “in the closet/under the bed monsters” and when a book called The Babadook, magically appears in the house, it exacerbates the nightmare behaviour. Samuel is convinced that a creature from the book is intent on killing Amelia and that he must become her protector.

Samuel’s manufacture of an array of weapons does not sit well with parent or teachers, and his heightened erratic behaviour exhausts an already physically and emotionally depleted Amelia.

Grief begets grief and the fears of the child manifest themselves in the mother.

Taking a leaf from German Expressionism films of the 1920s, writer/director Jennifer Kent has fashioned a formidable horror movie in THE BABADOOK, relying mostly on atmosphere, suspense and psychology rather than slash trash grim and gore. There’s a wink and a nod to Jack Clayton’s ‘The Innocents’ too.

Radek Ladczuk cinematographer, production designer Alex Holmes and book illustrator Alexander Juhasz all contribute to the brooding, boding, belligerence of this unsettling piece of neo-gothic.

Essie Davis as Amelia is amazing, doing double duty as a sort of symbiotic Burstyn/Blair pairing, playing both parent and possessed with aplomb. Demented through despair, her character arcs through the drama from distraught and devastated mum to demonic maniac. It’s a tour de force far from her Phryne Fisher persona.

Noah Wiseman exudes a creepy innocence as Samuel. His exasperating behaviour rings disturbingly true elevating Amelia’s annoyance to end of her tether extremes.

Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK opens at cinemas nationally this Thursday.