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Blu-ray Review

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The Babadook


Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West and Ben Winspear
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 21 June 2021

Amelia struggles to raise her psychologically disturbed son, Samuel. Her husband was killed in a car accident driving her to the hospital to give birth to Samuel. Now, a few years later, Samuel is at school, but his behavioural problems are increasingly more unpredictable. But it isn’t only Samuel who is suffering; Amelia is living on the edge of her nerves, with next to no sleep and constant disruptive daytime events. She has no family to fall back on, and her best friend has distanced herself for the safety of her own children. When Samuel notices a creepy new pop-up book on his shelf called The Babadook it becomes the catalyst for all of his thoughts and actions. He tells his mother that the shadowy figure wants to kill them, but is this statement a result of Samuel’s fevered imagination or is there substance to his words...?

On the face of it, this is just another ghost story wherein a child sees and experiences things which the adult/s cannot perceive (at least until the plot allows them to!). However, there is significantly more going on here than meets the eye. This film is much more about the exploration of Amelia’s state of mind than it is a straight horror film. The dark, spindly gentleman-like figure is very well conceived and intelligently kept on the edge of darkness. The fact that the character is straight out of a pop-up book (or has been re-represented in one) causes you to make an association with something which you might expect from a Tim Burton film. So, the power of the Babadook is maintained by not being fully realised, although ultimately the strength and effectiveness of the creature depends upon the stableness or otherwise of the two main characters.

Essie Davis is quite remarkable in the role of Amelia. Her performance is a rollercoaster ride of grief, tiredness, psychological strain, frustration, anger and love. It is completely believable to the point the viewer is dragged into her downward spiralling distress. It’s indelibly marked on her features; subtly different in each scene as a result of escalating events. It is a case of witnessing Amelia’s weakening mind and her final proved resilience and resolve, with the Babadook merely being the trigger which forces her to thrust out a metaphorical hand and mentally exclaim, “Enough! No more! I’m stronger than this.” It is a pivotal moment, and turns this mythological menace into more of a tentative and subdued presence.

Second Sight Films presents a Limited Edition 4K and Blu-ray release with cover artwork by Peter Diamond, a 150-page hardback book, and collector’s art cards. There is an audio commentary, no less than eight interviews with cast and crew, a short film called Monster, a behind-the-scenes making of…, special effects, stunts, the house, and creating the pop-up book. If your preference is for psychological horror, rather than blood and guts, then you’re in for a treat.


Ty Power

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