The Toronto After Dark Film Festival closed out its strongest year yet with a sell-out – tickets went so fast, they actually had to add a second show at midnight – screening of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook.
A single mother (Essie Davis) battles to protect her autistic son (Noah Wiseman) after a monster from one of his storybooks begins to manifest itself in their lives.
Since its premiere at Sundance, The Babadook has been positioning itself as the horror film to see this year. And with good reason, as it's a fine film with subject matter that stretches beyond the usual confines of your typical monster-under-the-bed flick. Whereas themes that are attempted in lesser films like 2013's Mama, The Babadook found ways to follow through on them. It is also layered with such a way as to leave several things up to interpretation.
|Noah Wiseman & Essie Davis in The Babadook.|
The Babadook is a humanistic story, so it is no surprise that the two leads are exceptional. Essie Davis is phenomenal as Amelia, the mother at the end of her rope. I haven't seen a maternal character look so exhausted since Tilda Swinton in 2011's We Need To Talk About Kevin. Her son Samuel is a handful and young talent Noah Wiseman has no trouble expressing that, with more a few scenes where I was surprised she just didn't leave him on a doorstep somewhere.
Aside from the meat of the picture, The Babadook is a veritable feast in every other regard, as well. It employed an escalating sense of dread, rather than overt scares, which kept the piece far more sustainable. The visual style and colour palette of the film are top notch, and whoever created that Babadook storybook for the film needs to win some kind of award.
I also have to mention the sound design because it had a personality of its own. The strange and unsettling drone that would resonate when the Babadook was near that really put me on edge. This is a wonderfully dark film that director Jennifer Kent should be extremely proud of and I can't wait to see where she goes from here.