Feature 51 – The Babadook (2014)

or “Scary Stories to Tell in the Outback”

Featuring: Essie “The Matrix: Reloaded” Davis , Noah Wiseman , Daniel “Fell” Henshall

Director & Writer: Jennifer “Monster (2005)” Kent

Origin: Australia

Review_____

“I am the parent and you are the child, so take the pill.”

Hey strangers! Long time no see! It’s been a rough couple of months. But, not unlike a boomerang, this man-dingo (not to be confused with Mandingo) comes back sooner or (in this case) later! Despite being forged of mithril, it turns out my otherwise invincible laptop wasn’t waterproof OR whiskeyproof. Since I lost all of the original graphics and write-ups I’d made for the World Tour reviews, today’s episode will be the debut of my new, lazier format! No teasers about the next stop, no comedically morbid trivia about the origin nations, and no customized images. Instead, here’s my immensely slothy banner. Now get reading!

Charlie, Charlie, were the people who “summoned” you (before you were revealed to be a viral marketing ploy for yet another shitty “found footage” ghost movie) just gullible dip shits who would better serve the world as a new Taco Bell menu item called “the Soylent Grande”?
Yes.

Charlie, Charlie, would this gag have gone over better if I’d published this episode two months ago, when I originally started writing it?
Yes.

Charlie, Charlie, did you see the trailer for The Babadook and think you were on the cusp of Australian cinema’s “next big thing”?
Yes.

Charlie, Charlie, were you as disappointed by The Babadook as I was?
Yes.

Unlike when I’m masturbating on the toilet in the dark after waking up from that Barbara Crampton sex dream I’m always having, right now it’s nice to know I’m not alone…

The writer-director of today’s feature is Jennifer Kent. Jenn’s other credits mostly consist of minor acting roles, so my biggest fear was that The Babadook is the result of yet another person in front of the camera getting sick of being told how to utilize the trauma of their childhood dog being hit by a car to force tears, and vowing to prove to everyone that she can do “their job” better than “they” can. The initial trailer promised me something a little more conventional in the game of supernatural hauntings, which I was more than happy to welcome into my home given the scads of pathetic “found footage” spook-show garbage that’s run rampant through the genre for the last however many years it’s been since the first Paranormal Craptivity planted its hooks into theaters and laid eggs from its oozing, inflamed orifice.

If you haven’t scanned the trailer for yourself, pop in yo’ peepers and get to jeeper creeperin’:

At first glance, we’re promised what looks to be a traditional tale of childhood torment, as a boy and his mother become the hosts for a phantasm released from a children’s fable book. Right? Kinda yes, kinda no.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mother. Not an uncommon thing. I know several single mothers. This isn’t even a setup for one of those “I support single mothers” t-shirts with the image of a stripper on a pole. I legit know a few single mothers. Hell, my own sister/mom Isis had to do the single mom thing after poppa Osiris ended up six feet under the Fertile Crescent. Amelia’s got it harder than most mono-matriarchs though, not only because her qualification for MILF dating sites is due to her husband’s untimely demise, but because her boy Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is a problem child. Well, I guess the politically correct term for it these days would be bi-polar or “dissociative personality disorder” or whatever the poor kid’s got rattling around in his junior skull bucket. Speaking of, the Junior Skull Bucket™ at KFC now comes with sugar-frosted coleslaw and one of twelve moderately racist toys based on the hit film A Haunted House 2, for a limited time only! Get your glow-in-the-dark “Shawn Wayans fucking the doll from The Conjuring” plaything with no-slip kung-fu grip TODAY!

As I was saying, Sammy’s the kind of kid that Hank Hill would redneck psychology diagnose as “that boy ain’t right”. As a result of his issues, he has recurring night terrors about being stalked by a monster. Like any kid, he’s convinced that said monster is fer realsies and will one day pop out of his closet like Howie Mandell in Little Monsters (you know, the movie that Pixar ripped the fuck off to make Monsters Inc.), only instead of taking Sam on a wild adventure through an ’80s punk-pop dreamscape and teaching him lessons about friendship and being yourself, it’ll just wear the boy’s dismembered face as formal dinner attire while it goes on to eat his mom’s head…what, you’ve never had that dream? Pffft. Liar.

To prepare for said imagined assault, Sammy proves himself quite the Kevin McCallister-in-training, assembling a dart firing crossbow, a back-mounted personal catapult, and all manner of DIY ballistic devices in their basement using nothing but pieces of scrap wood and the kind of basic doodads you find in those $5 “Made in China” toolbox sets. On top of that he’s also an aspiring Copperfield, but practicing his magic tricks (George Bluth Jr.: “Illusions!” ) for mom only garner the slightest of parental recognition. The kid’s got the potential to be a damn genius, but rather than encouragement he gets scolded by Amelia for always fucking stuff up, causing trouble at school and generally being annoying. Even when he reaches out and hugs mom in a much needed embracive moment of bonding, she violently pushes the lad away and yells at him for lingering slightly too long beyond her comfort zone. Women react like that to me all the time, but it’s usually because they catch me trying to undo their bra or drifting slightly too south of the Equator. That’s our Anubis! [canned audience laughter]

Amelia defends Sammy’s eccentricities to his detractors and insists they see him as an innocent child instead of just some pint-sized pain-in-the-ass. Though your first reaction (like mine was) may be that she’s just trying to save face in front of people so they don’t label her another shitty mom who should’ve just swallowed, Amelia does seem to do her best to show the kid as much love as she’s capable of. Not just out of guilt, but because her own emotional problems don’t allow for anything more. It can be hard to understand for those lacking in empathy, but I view depression like rape – if you blame the victim, you’re a piece of shit and I will personally split your uprights with a fire-ax if you bring any of that Faux News bullshit around my tomb.

While Sam’s in school during the day, Amelia works at a retirement home/geezer palace/grandparent dumping ground, and surrounding herself with cranky old farts doesn’t help her tightrope walk of sanity over the gaping maw of madness that is her life. Her co-worker Robbie (Daniel Henshall) is a nice enough guy and is clearly interested in turning their working relationship into, well, a working relationship. He covers for her at work and cheers her up when she needs it, but never expects anything in return. He’s either the sweet would-be boyfriend our lady deserves or total Friend Zone material, depending on your perspective. Though she could use a visit from Dr. Tube Steak (the Double A’s in her battery-operated boyfriend would agree), Amelia prefers to either be ashamed of her situation or play martyr by not wanting to drag anyone into the personal hell she’s built for herself. Good for her there’s always Convent-sized 200 packs of Energizers on sale at G’Day-Mart!

One evening, when Am’s ready to read Sam his nightly pre-bedtime story, the lad brings her a tome from their bookshelf that she’s never seen before. It’s a strange adolescent grimoire of the pop-up variety called “Mister Babadook” – a dark fairytale similar to something out of the old school Brothers Grimm collections. A lot less like Disney and a lot more like Tim Burton and Clive Barker’s nightmares making a litter of Eraserhead babies. She refuses to finish the tale, which infuriates Sammy and sends him into a fit. In the days that follow, the kid starts ranting about Mr. B (naturally *wink*wink*) haunting them, which only makes everybody else wish the kid would fall down a flight of stairs more so. Mom’s attempts to hide and destroy the book prove futile, as that ominous red cover continues to find its way into their home. Every time it returns, with new chapters serving as sinister portents of horrors-to-come…

As far as movies go, The Babadook is certainly well made. The visuals are clean where they should be clean, dark when they should be dark and a wide awake nightmare when they should be a wide awake nightmare. The eponymous specter himself is done is this weird “static shadow” animation style that’s unnerving without going so over-the-top that it’s goofy. Mr. Dookie resembles a silent film era Slenderman. He looks like something that escaped from Dr. Caligari’s wardrobe, a unique homage to villains of the oldest of old schools of animation. With his ominous top hat, demented face and long black trenchcoat of a body, Dooker’s a perfect candidate for stalking Betty Boop from the inky shadows of an ominous alleyway. Bad guys were all very predatory in that rapey sort of way back then.

I give props to the cast, too. Essie Davis does the besieged mom thing like she’s had personal experience, while Noah Wiseman’s just creepy enough looking that when he goes into his screaming freak out panic attacks, he looks suitably disturbed/disturbing. If he were my kid, I’d put him in a cage and lock him in his room until he calmed down, but I guess that only serves as an abutment to my decision to raise pets rather than rugrats! Everyone else in the cast is serviceable in being selfish cunts to help the audience sympathize (or empathize in the case of we childless viewers) with Am’s plight, while the one or two supportive people around her help keep it from turning into a complete “all against one” pity party.

Unfortunately, my biggest problem comes from the production company’s sales pitch on this one. Whereas the trailer promised me a more traditional supernatural horror experience, Babadook‘s dark fantasization of Amelia’s personal anxiety and the emotionally painful relationship with her son skew it much heavier into the “movie with a message” category. That message is bludgeoned over our collective skulls like a gas-powered shillelagh for an hour and a half until the final parting scene. It’s a heart punching manifestation of severe parental depression to be sure, but as someone just looking for something to watch and NOT a suffering parent looking for an understanding perspective, it just makes me shout “YES! WE GET IT! SHE’S SAD AND THE MONSTER IS A METAPHOR FOR DEPRESSION! MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN OR GET TO THE FUCKING CREDITS!”. It makes an otherwise well done movie feel like you’re Daniel Craig tied to a chair with a hole cut out of the seat and Jennifer Kent’s going all Mads Mikkelsen on your undercarriage. Or, as they call it at Guantanamo, a “Cheney Handshake”.

All that being said, if you’re the kind of person The Babadook strives to give a voice to, give it a viewing. If you’re the kind of person that has a metaphorical titanium plate in your head that helps prevent such heavy handed allegory abuse from turning your patience into applesauce and can just enjoy the flick as sensory stimulus, by all means, jump on Netflix and have a ball. If you’re me? Well, you’re not, so anything I say about that is irrelevant. Be happy about it.

Charlie, Charlie, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well through the course of this review, and I feel comfortable enough now that I think I can ask this without offending you.
Yes?

Charlie, Charlie, if you’re supposed to be a Mexican ghost, shouldn’t your name be Carlos?
…White kids – what are you gonna do?

Until Children of Men happens? Nothing, Charlie. Nothing. Blart.

See you next episode, boils and ghouls!

Moral of the Story: I’m never having kids. Ever. This may have been the last push I needed to finally get that vasectomy!

Screenshots_____

“Mommy, is it true what all the kids at school say? Was my father really an albino goblin?”


The cast from A Bug’s Life looks a lot creepier when you watch it in HD.


Kid, I believe you when you say there’s nothing up your sleeves. Believe me when I tell you that if you’re still doing that shit in ten years, you won’t have anyone in your bed either.


“I don’t know, Sammy. I still don’t think it’s normal for a boy to want his mother to read him schematics for homemade explosive devices before bed every night.”


Children, if something that looks like that is trying to be your friend, run out the back door of your house and don’t stop running until you’re at the police station.


I haven’t felt so awkward reading subtitles since I watched that closed captioned copy of Last Tango in Paris… you know which part I’m talking about… yep, the scene with Marlon Brando’s Amish Astroglide™.


“Every day Mr. Harris asks me to pull his finger and every day I fall for it! Damn it!” (a little callback for any “Roseanne” fans who might be reading this)


Hence why Donald Trump pulls such high polling numbers.


Look kids, it’s footage of Jared Leto’s Joker from the latest “leaked” Suicide Squad trailer. Whoop-dee-fuck.


I see no one ever taught the Aussies how to bathe properly. It’s the 21st century and they’re still doing it like the French during the Golden Age of Ballooning. (a little callback for any “Flying Circus” fans)


She sleeps with that violin every night. Rednex fiddler Ace Ratclaw signed it for her at a 2012 show in Budapest! (a little callback for anyone who’s ever used Wikipedia to look up the members of Rednex)


A bad night for most women, sure, but a GOOD night for one of Charlie Sheen’s girlfriends! (a little callback for people who still think Charlie Sheen’s cool and domestic violence is hilarious [also, go fuck yourself with a bayonet])

———————————————————
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Anubis will return next time in
“Glorious Bastards”

Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

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