Blu-ray Review: The Babadook
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The Babadook
Blu-ray (Special Edition) | DVD
Director: Jennifer Kent
Screenwriter: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Ben Winspear
IFC Films | Scream Factory
Rated R | 94 Minutes
Release Date: April 14, 2015

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is an Australian horror film about a mother and son (Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman) who are tormented by a supernatural creature.

After her husband’s tragic death, Amelia (Davis) is left to raise her son Samuel (Wiseman) alone. Sam begins displaying erratic behavior, building weapons to fight an imaginary monster. When Sam’s behavior worsens, Amelia is forced to take him out of school.

One night, Sam asks his mother to read from a disturbing pop-up storybook he finds on his shelf. The story, Mister Babadook, is about a boogeyman whose arrival is heralded by three sharp knocks. Once someone is made aware of its existence, the monster torments that person indefinitely.

Amelia is disturbed by the mysterious book’s contents while a traumatized Sam becomes convinced that the Babadook is lurking in the shadows of their home. Doors begin to open and close on their own, strange sounds, and in one horrific scene, Amelia finds shards of glass in her soup. The increasingly paranoid Amelia blames these events on Sam, but he insists that the Babadook is responsible. In response, Amelia rips the Mister Babadook book to shreds and burns it – but explainable and horrific events continue to plague them.

The Babadook is a slow-burn psychological horror drama in the vein of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, and Richard Donner’s The Omen. It relies on real, organic fears rather than the cheap jump scares we’ve come to expect from modern horror films. It does so by giving us a heartfelt, genuinely moving story with characters we actually care about.

In The Shining, Nicholson’s Jack Torrance doesn’t slowly descend into madness – he pulls the trigger on it. He’s seemingly crazy from the get-go and the only “development” his character goes through is becoming a caricature of a drunk, abusive father. As Amelia, Essie Davis unravels – she disintegrates – and succumbs to madness in a very real and horrifying way. You are not only afraid of her, but for her and what she may do to her son.

Creating meaningful characters in horror is what separates classics like The Exorcist and Alien from disposable fodder like Ouija and Annabelle. Great filmmakers tell great stories, and they do so by creating characters that resonate with us. The Babadook is Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, and already she has created a seminal work – exceptionally crafted with devastatingly good performances at its center.

Scream Factory’s special edition Blu-ray of The Babadook accentuates excellent film with inspired packaging and a solid selection of bonus materials. The slipcase recreates the pop-up storybook from the film, complete with a beautiful-yet-haunting illustration of Mr. Babadook and the children’s rhyme, “If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”

The film is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. The image has a lot of great sharpness and detail, with inky blacks that enhance the atmosphere of Kent’s film. Overall, The Babadook is deeply disturbing and highly recommended for horror fans looking for a genuine scare.

Bonus Features

* Limited-run “pop-up” packaging
* Deleted scenes
* Cast and crew interviews
* Behind-the-scenes of the making of the film
* Jennifer Kent’s short film, Monster
* Theatrical trailers

The Babadook is now available on DVD and Blu-ray at Amazon. I included Jennifer Kent’s film on my Top 30 Favorite Films of 2014, which you can see here.


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