Tag Archives: the babadook

Review – It Follows (15) [2015]

It Follows - title banner2

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • David Robert Mitchell – The Myth of the American Sleepover

Cast:

  • Maika Monroe – At Any Price, Labor Day, Echoes Of WarIndependence Day II: Resurgence
  • Keir Gilchrist – Dead Silence, Just Peck, The Heyday Of The Insensitive Bastards, Dark Summer
  • Olivia Luccardi – The Rewrite, Like Sunday, Like Rain, Ironwood
  • Jake Weary – Fred: The Movie I-III, Altitude, Zombeavers, Pretty Little Liars
  • Lili Sepe – Spork
  • Daniel Zovatto – Beneath, Innocence, Revenge, Primal/Ethereal

The basic principle of a horror film is that it should scare people for much, if not all of the film. Why then, with the exception of last year’s The Babadook, have so many recent horror films not been scary in the least? Simply, watch It Follows and find out.

Jay (Maika Monroe) tied up and in an abandoned car park, after her sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary).

Jay (Maika Monroe) tied up and in an abandoned car park, after her sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary).

It Follows centres round nineteen-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), who lives in the suburbs of Middle America. She goes out on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary) and has sex with him in the back of his car (classy, I know). While taking a break from having sex, Hugh puts a handkerchief wet with chlorophyll over Jay’s mouth and she passes out. When Jay wakes up, she is tied to a chair in an abandoned car park and Hugh tells her that he has passed on to her an STD (a sexually transmitted demon) that will follow her until, either, she has sex with another person or it kills her…

The premise for It Follows is a terrifying one. The threat of acquiring an STD (a disease, that is, as opposed to a demon) is enough to make all sensible people carry protection with them at all times. So, to change the disease element to a demon could have made for really interesting (and frightening) viewing.

Unfortunately, Director David Mitchell has ruined a very good premise with bad execution in several different ways. First, he employs the scene-fading technique too often to dizzy his audience into disinterest. Second, he has too many pointless and uninteresting scenes that add nothing to the plot. Third, the movie is boring and one rapidly becomes impatient for the film to end.

 

Jay and her friends going into an abandoned, derelict house. Why? Because that's what people do in horror films.

Jay and her friends going into an abandoned, derelict house. Why? Because that’s what people do in horror films.

Part of the reason why It Follows is boring is because there is no suspense. The ethereal, atmospheric music that the director employs can only induce terror into viewers when it is timed correctly and if they care about the characters. Alas, Mitchell turns the music on and up to eleven when it is not needed so it never has the desired effect (unless the desired effect is to give audiences a thumping headache); and the characters are so vain and stupid that even if Mitchell had used the music correctly, it would not have heightened one’s sensations as no-one cares about the characters. Jay and her (chemistry-less) friends are so daft, viewers almost pray for the demons to devour them so we can go to the bathroom sooner.

In fairness to Mitchell, he has the right ideas in place to make (what should have been) a scary horror movie. He has taken the right approach by making his characters the central focus of the story (unlike, for example, The Woman In Black where James Watkins made the silly ghost the driving force of the story). Indeed, if Mitchell had made his characters a tad more interesting, perhaps It Follows may have made pulses race after-all.

Kelly (Lili Sepe) attempting to calm Jay down upon the latter seeing a demon closing in on her.

Kelly (Lili Sepe) attempting to calm Jay down upon the latter seeing a demon closing in on her.

Additionally, the suburban setting is apt (if cliché) for a scary horror film as suburban areas can create a naturally tense and creepy atmosphere, like in The Babadook. Except, It Follows is neither tense nor scary, and seeing the setting merely reminds one of how good The Babadook was and how much of a let-down It Follows is.

Over-all, It Follows is a dull film. Director David Mitchell may have some good concepts upon how to make a decent film (and one awaits to see what he comes up with next). But his first horror film can only be described as a failure. It Follows does not make viewers feel on-edge or afraid for the characters within the story. Furthermore, the movie wastes its petrifying premise with bad execution. And there is only one crime in film worse than bad execution: boredom. Oh wait, It Follows has that too.

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Review – The Babadook (15) [2014]

Babadook - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  •  Jennifer Kent – Monster

Cast:

  • Essie Davis – The Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions, Australia, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Assassin’s Creed
  • Noah Wiseman – The Gift
  • Tim Purcell
  • Daniel Henshall – The Snowtown Murders, Not Suitable For Children, These Final Hours, Fell
  • Benjamin Winspear – The Last Goodbye, Breeding In Captivity
  • Hayley McElhinney
  • Barbara West

Music Composer:

  •  Jed Kurzel – The Snowtown Murders, Dead Europe, Macbeth

In recent years, the ineptitude of the horror genre has been documented on this blog. The Woman In Black, The Possession and Mama did not induce enough fear into viewers and illustrated, to the point of a rule, that the horror genre has become a joke. Nevertheless, Jennifer Kent’s latest film The Babadook wonderfully proves otherwise and shows that the horror genre still has the power to terrify viewers.

Amelia (Essie Davis) with her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), looking under the bed to make sure that no monsters are there.

Amelia (Essie Davis) with her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), looking under the bed to make sure that no monsters are there.

  The Babadook is a low-budget Australian movie. Amelia (Essie Davis) is a nurse/carer in an old people’s home by day and a single mother the rest of the time. Her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is a difficult child who believes to the point of obsession that he sees a monster (the Babadook) in the closet. He creates improvised weapons to deal with the monster when the correct moment arises. At first, Amelia believes that Samuel’s unusually obsessive behaviour is not an in issue. But soon she realises, to her consternation, that a sinister presence might be lurking in the house…

The Babadook is a brilliant horror film that is sincerely scary. At its core, the movie is about a supernatural being haunting a house in need of renovation. But, amazingly, the movie does not fall into the current horror genre trope of quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet… BANG to quicken one’s heart rate. Instead, in a similar vein to The Shining and We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Babadook messes with one’s instincts and emotions in a very natural and unsettling way.

Amelia reading Sam a book to help him go to sleep. Only, without realising it, she is reading to him the poetry book written by the Babadook.

Amelia reading Sam a book to help him go to sleep. Only, without realising it, she is reading to him the poetry book written by the Babadook.

The director, Jennifer Kent, does this by four means: one, through the use of discomforting poetry; two, through the use of ethereal sounds like thud, dook and the crawl of insects to build tension; three, by creating a situation whereby a mother is as fearful for her child as she is fearful of her child (and his disturbing behaviour); and, four, by inflection by making both the mother and the son, in different ways, look more and more like the Babadook as the film goes on. All four of these factors are executed exceptionally well and ensure that one feels a knot gradually tightening in their stomachs.

Undoubtedly, one would not be able to feel this way if the two lead actors, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, had not put in such strong performances. Yet, at the same time, both actors have been privileged with richly complex, three-dimensional characters. For this, one must applaud Jennifer Kent for writing such believable characters and a brilliantly written script in general.

A page from the Babadook's actual book. The poetry is as fantastic as it is unsettling.

A page from the Babadook’s actual book. The poetry is as fantastic as it is unsettling.

Nevertheless, the script (sadly) does not hold out for the whole of The Babadook’s 94 minutes. Arguably, the climactic scene near the end of the movie veers away from the direction that the film had seemed to be going down for more than three quarters of the film. This is a shame as the scenes near the end feel a little jarring and out of sync with the rest of the movie. In addition, the special effects look amateurish at times, which may undermine the scare element of the film. However, one should not put too much stress on these flaws because that would be to take away what is a delightfully accomplished horror film.

Over-all, The Babadook is a superb and genuinely scary horror movie. As a whole, the film is well-written, superbly acted, and deeply unsettling in a very normal way despite the supernatural element within the film. One might nitpick and say that the special effects are not great. Yet, at a time when the horror genre has become a laughing stock, Jennifer Kent demonstrates with The Babadook that there is more to the horror genre than the base (and boring) denominator of quiet, quiet, quiet… BANG, and that horror films still have the potential to scare people.

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