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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THE BABADOOK (2014)

Last year’s art-house fright pic is an imaginatively scarifying, horrifically elegant chamber thriller about a single mom and her manically obsessed, troubled little boy. The missing father died on the trip to hospital the day his son was born, and the kid’s been ‘acting out’ ever since. Now an anxiety-ridden seven, he’s armed himself with various sharp-tipped homemade weapons to keep any monsters at bay, a menace at home, a threat to relatives, a terror at school. And his constant need for safety monitoring & pleas for attention have left Mom too exhausted to function. It’s a desperate situation; perfect for a Babadook!, the malignant force of evil they find in a Children’s Pop-Up book. (A book that might have frightened Edward Gorey.) Writer/director Jennifer Kent brings compositional rigor and the shock of believable dread to her haunted house story, holding back on genre gore & technical gimmicks. Instead, the simple thrust of her presentation gets deep into your head & under your skin. Great perfs up and down the line, especially from the little kid (Noah Wiseman) whose pre-Babadook tantrums prove a tough act to follow, even for an implacable monster. As Mom, Essie Davis miscalculates her dynamics down to a barely audible murmur, presumably to give contrast during the possession scenes, but it hardly lessens the general effect. NOTE: Another Family Friendly pic that's NOT a kiddie pic! Think teens; middle-school and up.

DOUBLE-BILL: With style & tone more old-school EXORCIST/’73 or THE SHINING/’80 than modern day horror pic, it’s nice to see Stephen King & William Friedkin quoted on the DVD cover. But while there’s a touch of Kubrick’s formal control here, if with more warmth in the actors' blood, what really springs to mind is Suzie Templeton’s dark & handsome Stop-Motion animation of Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF/’06.

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