Sunday, November 30, 2014

"hello dave?"

I've been putting off watching/reviewing this for a month or so now seeing as almost everyone I know has nothing but praise for it....and that, if I'm honest kinda worries me....

The Babadook (2014).
Dir: Jennifer Kent.
Cast:  Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney
Barbara West and Ben Winspear.

"Ba-ba-ba... dook! Dook! DOOOOOKH! DAVE!".

The shot to fuck yet still strangely attractive Amelia (Davis from the fantastic Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) has a hard life, even by movie standards.

Not only is she a (totally not merry) widow - her hubbie died in a car crash talking her to the hospital to give birth - who spends her days wiping the chins and arses of dementia patients whilst wearing an ill fitting Bri-Nylon uniform but her bush haired son Samuel (Wiseman who it appears is neither wise nor a man) is beginning to show signs of borderline barkingness being as he is obsessed with performing magic tricks at the most inopportune moments, monsters under the bed and building sub-Evil Dead style weaponry to fight them with.

After being caught in class brandishing a desk-mounted flamethrower (or something) and with the rest of the pupils getting annoyed at being disturbed by the noise of the birds nesting in his hair, Samuel is referred to an educational psychologist to deal with his ongoing (and frankly annoying) behavioural problems.

Realizing that that would mean having to feel sorry for someone other than herself Amelia flat out refuses, preferring to take Samuel out of school and giving her a chance to be resentful to his face as well as behind his back.

"Nope, no sign of any plot driven character development under here either!"

One night, Samuel discovers a mysterious pop-up book, titled "Mister Babadook", on his bookshelf and excitedly gets his mum to read it to him.

Seeing as Samuel is know to have nightmares after reading Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, reading him a story about a top-hatted monster that, once you become aware of it, torments you forever is probably not the best idea in the world.

But hey, it moves the plot along.

And, more importantly gives Amelia another reason to be resentful.

With Samuel on the verge of shitting himself with fear and poor old Amelia confused by the lack of either an ISBN or authors name on the book the pair retire to bed, giving our moribund mum ample chance to practise her 'I hate mah wean' face as Samuel sleeps next to her.

I think by this point I'm meant to feel sympathy for the pair but as it is I'm counting the minutes till the jolly faced Mister Babadook turns up and puts them out of their/our misery.

I mean Amelia must be the only woman who can look angry and annoyed whilst pleasuring herself with a vibrator, thank fuck that Samuel jumps into bed with her before she climaxes as I imagine that would consist of her belching fire and shouting at the dog before bursting into tears and eating a Pot Noodle.

Rant back to the plot.

He grabs me suddenly and yanks me up against him, one hand at my back holding me to him and the other fisting in my hair.
"You're one challenging woman," He kisses me, forcing my lips apart with his tongue, taking no prisoners.
"It's taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car, just to show you that you're mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I'll buy you a fucking car," growls Winnie The Pooh to Roo.

 Not too surprisingly given his track record when it comes to books, monsters and general mentalism Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is in the house and preparing to unleash all manner of bad stuff on them.

His fragile state of mind isn't helped when bizarre things actually do start happening around the house.

Well I say bizarre things but really all that happens is that as the whole house seems to be full of fully dressed tailors dummies and full sets of clothes pinned to the walls whenever the lights are turned off it looks as if someone is standing in the corner, nothing that a good TV make-over wouldn't fix.

Amelia, knowing full well that if any of the occurrences were in fact caused by a strange supernatural entity would lose precious attention points is quick to blame Samuel, who then becomes more convinced of the Babadooks existence which in turn causes even more emotional confusion for poor mum who obviously not impressed by the amount of work that's gone into making the unique pop up book and feeling the need to spoil something else tears it up in a fit of pique and puts it in the bin.

If only  Jane Levy had done that with the Necronomicon at the beginning of The Evil Dead remake we'd all be better off.

Gavin and Stacey the mooth shite years.

This really doesn't help matters tho' as by this time no one actually has any sympathy or time for either Amelia's constant whining or Samuel's frankly annoying attention seeking with it all coming to a head at his cousin Ruby’s birthday party when he kicks the poor girl out of a treehouse for pointing out that:

A. He's a freak


B. That he doesn't have a dad.

Which, frankly are both true.

Harsh maybe but we have spent the last hour being told how great it is that Samuel speaks his mind no matter how uncomfortable it is.

It's not all bad tho' as it gives Amelia’s sister Claire an excuse to admit that she can't stand to be around Samuel and his uncontrollable hair and that she suspects that Amelia feels the same.

Amelia replies with a constipated stare and a shrug of her shoulders.

But not a big enough shrug to dislodge the chip tho.

"Wanna buy some pegs Dave?"

Driving home Samuel decides to make the day complete by having a seizure (which if I'm honest is far sexier than his mums cum face, reminding me as it did of when Helen Daniels had her stroke in Neighbours, a scene that saw tissue sales soaring amongst young boys) which, if nothing else gets Amelia to take him to the hospital in the hope of getting some help.

By help I mean sleeping pills for Samuel so that she can have a 'well deserved rest'.

Aw...poor lamb.

Luckily for her the doctor must have a thing for sensible shoes as he's soon handing over a prescription for a weeks supply of horse tranquillizers and a promise of psychological help for her son.

You know, the same type of help that the school offered at the films start, help that she angrily knocked back due to it not being convenient to the plot at that point.

With Samuel doped up to the eyeballs as soon as he sets foot in the house we get the chance to finally experience Amelia's shattered dream state without any annoying interruptions as she feverishly imagines killing the dog and murdering the boy (a scenario we've all run thru' our heads by this point)  as the top hatted trench coated terror looks on from a distance.

Only a loud bang on the door the next morning is enough to rouse her from her (and us) slumber.

And what does she find when she opens it?

Why it's a brand new copy of "Mister Babadook" and in a tribute to George Lucas this time it has added pages depicting a woman killing a dog and strangling a boy before cutting her own throat.

And all in a child friendly Jan Pienkowski pop up style.

Helen Daniels, up the casino, May 1968.....YESCH!

Terrified, or more likely concerned that someone has stolen her idea of killing Samuel and therefore might deny her the pleasure, Amelia burns the book on an outdoor grill (is there anything Aussies wont barbie?) before retiring to the kitchen to make coffee.

This moments calm tho' is interrupted by a ringing telephone which Amelia quickly answers, her '"hellos?" are met by an eerie gruff voice enquiring if she needs any pegs before spookily whispering "BABADOOOOOOOOK".

Deciding that she has a stalker (she'd be so lucky) and remembering how effective and dream-like the police station scene is in the original Invaders From Mars (available in full to view here with the aforementioned sequence being at 18:34) Amelia heads to the local station to file a report.

Unfortunately without the storybook and with no evidence of any crime being committed (the ones against fashion and storytelling not counting) the police send her on her way.

Do you realize now hard it is to resist the urge to type 'shite in mah mooth'? Do you? well DO YOU?

With her visions of the Babadook becoming more intense and with her dead husband communicating with her from the cellar, Amelia begins (finally) to suspect that not only is Mr. B real but that he may be attempting to possess her very soul and destroy her family.

Will she be able to protect Samuel from this evil?

And let's be honest, would it really be such a bad thing if she didn't?

Where do you start with a film like The Babadook?

This film has been on everyone's must see list since the release of the trailer last year and has been almost universally praised by everyone who's seen it so it's not like it really matters what I say does it?

But, as my old gran once said, if you're going to say something, say something nice.

OK, here goes....

The basic premise behind Jennifer Kent's debut feature, a children's storybook that comes to life is fantastic, as is the realization of the book itself.

It's just the rest of it that lets it down.

Absolutely nothing in the plot happens organically, everything is just 'there', laid out in front of you in black and white. Nothing grows out of the storytelling, in fact there is no story just tell.

We're told about the fatal car crash, Amelia's mental health problems and Sam's annoyingness up front rather than finding things out as the story progresses.

The same can be said for the Babadook itself, his modus operandi and cunning plan are all laid out in his book, so we know exactly what he's going to do and how he'll do it before he's even introduced.

Characters appear for no other reason than to announce things that we already know or to make sure that we're thinking what the director intended which, by the halfway point at Ruby's party it starts to get quite embarrassing.

I mean here are all of Claire's friend dressed in almost the same outfits, all dark colours and severe hairstyles talking about trivial things whilst poor Amelia is moping about in her light blue dress and messy blonde hair being an individual with proper problems and needs.

Nope, I obviously wouldn't have gotten that had it not been for the sub-Stepford Wives force feeding. 

It almost feels like we're watching a first draft, that everyone got so excited by the concept that they just filmed it as seen, surprising then that they actually went thru' six drafts, tho' the fact that Kent cites following Lars von Trier around whilst he was 'directing' Dogville as her film school education probably goes a long way to explaining the movies faults.

Art (house) or arse?

The von Trier influence is most noticeable in the film's design tho', everything and everyone - save the two leads - are dressed/painted/decorated in shades of grey or dark blue which rather than add an air of oppression to the film just makes everything look boiled.

More importantly it's this design aesthetic that robs the film of any real world grounding, it's not dream-like or disturbing just drab and dismal. 

As mentioned earlier, the original Invaders from Mars uses oversized sets to accentuate the fact that the whole story is being seen from the point of view of a child with fantastic results but the style, colours and dress of everyone involved is instantly recognizable as being of the real world. Here everyone seems to be living in some greyscale psuedo-scifi setting where nuclear war has stripped the world of colour. 

I mean who thinks to themselves "I need to decorate my house and brighten it up a wee bit....I know! dark grey for walls and doors will look good.....and imagine the fun in the dark if you're drunk! and how about black for the kids bedroom....he's a mentalist so I can't see him minding!"

Rather than getting involved in the story you just spend 90 minutes searching the background for a normal coloured car or an extra in plaid.

And then there's the Babadook itself.

On paper a genuinely terrifying concept, until that is you begin to look a wee bit closer at it.

The top hat, the long coat, the black out faced with only the mouth and eyes visible....

"You're my mentally unhinged wee boy now!"
 Once you realize that Amelia and Samuel are actually being menaced by Reece Shearsmith in blackface there's no turning back unfortunately.

And when he finally speaks on the phone his fate is sealed.

I so wanted him to refer to Amelia as 'Dave' I was literally shouting at the screen.

"Did you get me a Drifter?"

And it's at this point that the movie starts to unravel and you realize that you've seen a freaky wee boy obsessed with doing "Mah magic!" somewhere before....

"Me dad's dead!"

And Reece Shearsmith raises his head again, only this time he's amateur magician cum chocolate bar connoisseur Dean Tavalouris.

Now you try recovering from these revelations now you've thought about it.

Impossible isn't it?

Luckily this did add a little something that was sadly missing from the movie.

And what might that be I hear you cry?

Why any enjoyment at all I reply.

Because for a film that had so much going for it The Babadook commits probably the worst crime you can in cinema.

It's just 'there'.

It's not interesting enough to be either enjoyable or annoying, it just exists in it's own (non) special way.

Which is truly disappointing really given the idea behind it.

Just not disappointing enough for me to give a damn.

I could be a wee bit patronizing and say next time try harder.

But I wont.

I'll say next time just try.


1 comment:

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