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Babadook, The


Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall

Director: Jennifer Kent

South Australia: Samuel (Wiseman) is a horrible, hyper seven-year-old that only his fragile mother (Davis) could love. He makes contraptions that throw stuff like darts and cricket balls: they break things and injure people. The kid is a demanding menace 24/7.

It's no surprise that Amelia, who lost her husband seven years previously the night Samuel was born, looks washed out and struggles to cope. Still, she reads him bedtime stories, which are harmless enough until he hands her a slim volume called Mister Babadook, about a top-hatted black apparition who will knock three times before entering your house and possessing you.

He's so horrific a monster that 'if you look underneath, you'll wish you were dead'. And you can't get rid of him. Small wonder then that Amelia rips the book up, only to find it deposited afresh in her doorstep, its pages glued together, and its content altered to contain much more graphic illustrations that depict a mother killing her dog and then her son.

Like all animals in such films, the dog is clearly doomed from the outset.

It's pretty average horror that doesn't make much sense, even by the generous standards of the genre - but with a marvellous performance by Davis, who charts brilliantly Amelia's fairly rapid descent into madness, as she sits watching horror films, even if she does wake up very late to the realisation that she has to fight for her child. The ending is a bit dopy, and we never do get to properly see the Babadook - probably thanks to the movie's very low budget.

David Quinlan

Australia 2013. UK Distributor: Icon/Entertainment One. Technicolor.
93 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 19 Oct 2014