Monday, 17 November 2014

REVIEW - THE BABADOOK (JENNIFER KENT)


Fear is quite literally in the mind in Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, an extraordinary debut feature from the Australian filmmaker. Appreciating that what scares us most is that which we know to be true but feel powerless to conquer, she realises the psychological as physical, confronting her characters with emotions they experience with frightening force yet are unable to quantify. It's thus that The Babadook may qualify as one of cinema's most terrifying films: Kent presents us not with the mythical boogeyman of our nightmares, fantastical and easy to wish away, but with a manifestation of pure pain and terror, and you can't get rid of the babadook. I can't quite get rid of it from my memory, so visceral is the horror that Kent has devised, with equal skill in her technical ability as in her conceptual, screenwriting ability. Her manipulation of space is masterful, emphasising areas we'd not yet identified as being there, or expanding the geography of her film through darkness, a thoroughly chilling device she makes extensive use of. Kent toys with concealed and unexplored physical space to evoke similar ones in one's psyche - you're left looking over your shoulder when leaving the cinema, checking under the bed at night, not for flesh and blood monsters who can be vanquished with a craftily-constructed slingshot, but for parts of ourselves we'd hoped never to re-encounter. Tech specs are perfectly calibrated to function as part of Kent's vision, integrated wholly into the film's key intent (plainly, to terrify); acting is as deeply disturbing as the film's other elements, and quite brilliant, from Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman.