The Babadook


Viewed – 06 July 2015  Blu-ray

I wanted to watch this critically acclaimed Australian horror for a while, but could I find it to rent?  No.  So I decided it might be worth buying, and hoped it lived up to the reviews.  Amelia, a single mother bringing up a boisterous young boy Samuel, still mourns the death of her husband and the boy’s father seven year’s previous.  One day during a bedtime reading session, the boy takes a mysterious book from his bedroom shelf, which Amelia has never seen before, and subsequently starts to read it.  However the creepy fairy-tale soon sends shivers down her spine and she decides not to finish it.  But her son has other ideas and get’s obsessed with the character of The Babadook.  Is it real, or just in his imagination?

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This effective, slow-burning movie was rich in atmosphere and aided well by some clever camera work and subtle visual effects that helped build plenty of tension.  I quickly got the impression that Amelia might be having a nervous breakdown, and the stresses of Samuel’s behaviour, that became increasingly difficult to control only added to her problems.  It’s a movie that can be read on two levels, that of a possessed book and a demonic spirit, or that of a woman cracking up and losing her mind.  Director Jennifer Kent doesn’t make either viewpoint definite and there’s a lot of clues and suggestions that could have various interpretations … but I’d personally steer towards the latter.  For a horror movie however this plays things overly safe, get’s quite creepy at times (The Babadook resembles various childhood ghouls) but nothing to keep you awake at night (or spill your popcorn).  The young actor playing the little boy drifts between intentionally annoying to quite likeable, yet Essie Davis as Amelia turns in a very powerful and layered performance that certainly made this movie for me.

It’s overall impact was lessened due to the lack of true horror (despite potential), yet with intelligent direction and a strong lead performance … I still got a lot out of this.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

V/H/S


Viewed – 09 August 2013  Netflix

The found footage sub-genre of horror movies is probably on it’s last legs.  Having started out with the popular but disappointing Blair Witch Project and then finding it’s feet with movies like [REC] and Paranormal Activity, the genre has mostly become an acquired taste, some hating the shaky, hand held style, whilst others like me feeling it fully immerses and is therefore a lot scarier than your usual horror experience.

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A collaboration project between directors such as Ti West (House of the Devil), Adam Wingard and Joe Swanberg this has a group of petty crooks filming their various breaking and entering exploits on tape in order to sell them off on the internet and make some money.  When a mysterious fan of theirs hires them to break into an old house and retrieve a particular video cassette … it seems like a run of the mill payday, until what they find in the house causes the crooks to think otherwise.

I liked the set up of this, very realistic and eerie, with a convincing cast and a great concept.  The movie is basically about 5 different tapes, and what has been filmed on each, with stories like a young couple on holiday where an intruder films them as they sleep, to a group of guys on a night out who pick up a freaky girl, then a creepy house with a terrible secret.  All very well done and damn scary – this isn’t the kind of movie to watch if shadowy corridors, figures in the background and the supernatural freak you out.  Add to this smatterings of gore and nudity and well, this pretty much has it all.  I found it all very atmospheric, and yes the shaky cam stuff can get disorientating, but that is sort of the point, the unease, the confusion – you feel like you are there, and you really don’t want to be!

For the most part I thought the various moments of violence and gore were a little over the top (a disembowelment, a graphic throat slitting) as there was enough tension and genuine scares to not need any of that – and the ending was a bit of a let down.  Overall though I really enjoyed this.

Verdict:  4 /5

City Of The Living Dead


Viewed – 04 February 2012  Television

In the early eighties, a bunch of horror movies were deemed, at least here in the UK as too shocking for public consumption, and were banned outright.  In subsequent years these so called ‘video nasties’ began to slowly emerge, more often than not in a censored form.  Thankfully these days many of them can be found uncut, and one of the pioneers of such movies was late Italian director Lucio Fulci.  I have only seen a couple of his movies, but can attest they do live up to his moniker of ‘the godfather of gore’.

This 1980 release has a priest hanging himself in a cemetery whilst at the same time a psychic see’s the incident in a vision during a séance.  Soon after weird things start to happen, and recently deceased persons start coming back to life.  The psychic and a group of other people then journey to Dunwhich, where the priest hung himself to hopefully prevent the end of the world … as you do.

This is typical 80’s horror fair, with questionable acting, a couple of pretty females, and stand out moments of gore.  Lucio Fulci was a skilled director that’s for sure, even if his stories were usually wafer thin and incoherent.  This movie is no different, as the plot is mostly left unexplained (like what was the priest all about?) and the characterisation non-existent.  The movie is very creepy however, with some decent atmosphere and the soundtrack certainly works to crank up the tension.  For a Fulci movie the gory moments are a bit hit and miss (the drill sequence is stunning, but the vomit-up-ones-own-guts bit, is just ridiculous) and whatever interesting ideas it has to start with, just degenerates into your average zombie movie towards the end.

This was entertaining though, and I’m glad I have finally managed to see it.

Verdict:  2.5 /5