Sublime: The Babadook
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent
Produced by Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere, Pete Best, Julie Byrne, Jan Chapman, Jeff Harrison, Jonathan Page, Michael Tear
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West
Chilling pop-up illustrations and threatening text in a supposedly juvenile storybook read by a working widow (Davis) to her strident son (Wiseman) herald a grotesque abomination's residential intrusion to terrorize both by minacity. Exhausted by her feverishly fractious offspring's shrill demands, frequent flaws and homemade weaponry, she ascribes to delusion the monster's visitation, but its pestiferous, unrelenting encroachment can't be ignored. Is the obscure bogeyman exciting to exploit or merely symptomatic of unresolved dolor and maternal rancor? Kent pulls neither punches nor cheap tricks in her fearsome first feature, adeptly meting sparing, stygian special effects with her leading powerhouses' performances. Not only a potently petrifying horror, her collocation and conglomeration of the mundane and macabre therein examines the anxieties of single motherhood, maddening insomniac prostration and the redemptive power of grievous catharsis and filial love. A precision of pace and frame expose artistry with style on loan from silent cinema and Williams Blatty and Friedkin, actualizing Kent's burdens and characters with a mature and practiced invention one might expect from a much older hand. Professionally produced on a moderate $2.5M raised through independent investment, donations via Kickstarter and sale of the movie's horrific, handmade book, it's yet another economic filmic foray well beyond what any Hollywood studio could generate with cash a hundredfold...and a hundredth of Kent's prowess or profundity.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Exorcist.