Fantastic Fest capsule review: The Babadook
In this tightly told fairy tale from Australian first-timer Jennifer Kent, Amelia has had a rough go of it. Almost seven years ago, she and her husband were in a car accident whilst on the way to the hospital so she could deliver their first child. She and the baby survived, her husband did not.
Now, seven years later, she seems to barely make ends meet at her nursing home job. Her son Samuel, now in first grade is a weird kid — obsessed with monsters, skilled at making his own room-and-mom-defending backpack catapult and dart gun. None of this sits all that well with his school. Her sister, a yuppie housewife with an obnoxious daughter closed to Sam’s age, seems unsympathetic to her struggles and urges her to move on.
One night, she reads a creepy pop-up book called “Mister Babadook” (rhymes with book, not duke and no, I can’t not call the movie “the Badonkadonk” in my head). This manages to scare the heck out of Samuel and, well, is Mom starting to lose it or is there something sinister in the house?
Amelia (Essie Davis) is a good mother who cares about Samuel (doe-eyed Noah Wiseman) but its obvious she has never healthily processed her husband’s death. Samuel always has his birthday off the actual day and her husband’s stuff remains locked in the basement. With excellent effects and a seemingly strict atmosphere-over-cheap-scares vibe, Kent smartly plays footsie with the reality of the monster, unspooling the story in a manner not unlike Polanski’s “Repulsion.” At the core of this savvy, scary film is a tough story about the everyday horror of young children forced to take care of their parents.
“The Babadook” screens again at 2:15 p.m. Sept. 22.