The Babadook is an Australian horror film which has garnered extravagant praise from some reviewers. It is quite a good movie, and much of that virtue comes from the pleasure of unlocking its secrets afterward, alone or with friends. For the most part, I will try to hold back from that spoilery territory.
Amelia (Essie Davis) and her going-on-seven-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) live in a big house. Sam’s father died in a car accident the day Sam was born; he was driving Amelia to the hospital. Every year around Sam’s birthday, Amelia grieves. Sam has become a frightened but resourceful child; he obsesses over being ready to fight off the monsters he is sure are coming.
One night a week or so before his birthday, Sam picks a previously unnoticed book, titled The Babadook, for Amelia to read him at bedtime. The book features a menacing Something, the Babadook, that is coming for them, and whose arrival is to be announced by a portentious threefold knock.
Needless to say, Sam, already a discipline problem at school, goes a bit nuts. And there we have it: grieving mother, paranoid kid, looming monster visit. Throw in a few dark premonitions and we’ve got a story that can really work on the viewer.
The Babadook (reviews) (official site)
Directed and written by Jennifer Kent
Running time: 93 minutes
DVD release date: April 14, 2015
* * *
Many critics also loved Godard’s Goodbye to Language, which features a pair of lovers (often unsexily naked), an assassination, and a wandering dog. Don’t let the film’s incomprehensibility throw you, suggested one critic; just love it. I didn’t love it; the film’s incomprehensibility threw me.
Alps is another cinematic étude (succeeding Dogtooth) by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Here, a small group of entrepreneurs offer to soothe the bereaved by substituting for the recently deceased. A few details of the late loved ones–clothing, interests, behaviors–are taken on, but the impersonations are by no means thorough or even credible. Still, some are comforted, and the film explores the small motifs by which we connect with others.
Like its predecessor, Alps feels as if it was written by extraterrestrials with a slightly-off understanding of human behavior. The exercise should provide entertainment to some and a skewed variation on entertainment to others.