Review: ‘The Babadook’ (M) *** and a half

the_babadook__24AS Sam’s parents were rushing to hospital for Amelia to give him birth, there was a car accident. Sam, aged about eight, misses the dad he never knew. Amelia has a battery-powered solution to her grown-up problems. She does her best to raise Sam as a normal kid, but something is wrong.

“The Babadook” is a ghoulies-and-ghosties-and-long-legged-beasties-and- things-that-go-bump-in-the-night film. He’s the anti-hero of a book of which Sam is uncomfortably fond. It scares him, but he depends on it. Sam’s behaviour alienates him from classmates. He may have an autism spectrum disorder. Or is it simply an over-active imagination ?

As Amelia, Essie Davis makes a firm statement of her acting chops. The film lets her make amends for Phryne Fisher (where she had to overcome unconvincing adaptations for TV of Kerry Greenwood’s entertaining crime novels). Her co-star as Sam is Noah Wiseman, great in a role demanding difficult emotional and physical responses.

“The Babadook” is a commendable example of workmanlike, low-budget filmmaking. While the peripheral characters in this little Australian-made gothic number may advance the story, they don’t clutter it.

There is obviously a reason why the horror genre has such a long history on stage, screen and the printed page. It’s not one I relish, but I do acknowledge quality such as writer/director Jennifer Kent delivers here.

At Palace Electric and Limelight

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