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Written & Directed by Jennifer Kent / Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman & Tim Purcell

Australian writer and director Jennifer Kent has revisited a seemingly lost art by telling a story as touching as it is terrifying with her debut feature film THE BABADOOK. Kent’s instant cult classic puts a unique spin on the traditional “there’s a monster in my closet” fear that has plagued children across the world for generations. Should you see it, you will be checking under your bed once again, regardless of your age

Young Samuel (newcomer Noah Wiseman) is a troubled child. He was born to his mother Amelia (Essie Davis) on the very day she loses her husband in a violent death and it’s still a lonely case of mom and child versus the world some six years later. With no friends or supportive family in the picture, the two rely on each other to get through the day, every day. Although while Samuel clearly adores his mother, you’re not quite sure whether Amelia cherishes or resents the son she essentially traded in her husband for.

Still, she continues to approach his upsetting behaviour with the utmost patience, even as his obsession with an “imaginary” monster called The Babadook grows and neither of them is afforded any sleep night after night. And when a mysterious and horrifying book finds its way into Samuel’s bedroom, the darkness becomes a nightly dread for them both and Amelia begins to wonder if her child’s fears aren’t quite so unfounded after all.

THE BABADOOK, from left: Noah Wiseman, Essie Davis, 2013. ©IFC Midnight/Courtesy Everett Collection

The story itself is, without a doubt, absorbing all on its own; but the film likely wouldn’t be what it is with any other actors playing the two lead roles. Both Davis and Wiseman deliver incredible performances, marked by a maturity that’s well beyond anything their resumes might indicate. Davis assumes the role of the exhausted and lonely mother so convincingly that you can almost taste her frustration. And for his part, Wiseman’s Samuel goes back and forth from being an obnoxious, defiant little imp to the most gentle of children, whose tender stroking of his mother’s chin as he whispers he loves her will damn near bring you to tears.

It’s quite remarkable to watch as Kent takes quite traditional story elements, such as a struggling single mother or a disturbed child who’s scared of things that go bump in the night, and presents them with such unexpected emotion and fresh terror. Absolutely nothing about this production feels mechanical or predictable. THE BABADOOK is horror in its purest form.

4.5 sheep

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