Saturday, March 21, 2015

THE BABADOOK (2014)

THE BABADOOK (2014)
Deluxe Packaging Special Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Scream Factory, IFC Midnight
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Jennifer Kent 
Cast: Daniel Henshall, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Benjamin Winspear, Essie Davis, Barbara West


The Babadook (2014) is one of those scary movies that comes along every so often and does something quite out of the ordinary... it actually gets under your skin and scares you a little. It scares you in a subtle way that you probably haven't felt since you were very young and staying up way past your bedtime watching movies you should not have been watching... and I am not talking about watching the scrambled cable porn stuff either. Yo were watching those scary movies curled up on the couch clutching a pillow, your stomach in knots, and you were overcome with irrational fears and damned near too afraid to walk down the dark hallways of your house afterward. Those were some of the best nights of your life, you were eating a bowl of cereal at midnight and watching John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) or Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) after mom and dad went to sleep for the night. Yeah, those were the nights that made you a lifelong horror fan, at least they were for me. 

As great as those nights were it is the rare horror movie nowadays than has the ability to take me back to those days of pulling the blankets up over my head and pulling my feet away from the edge of the bed. I can count on one hand the number of movies that have  gotten under my skin, not because of some grotesque image, but because is is just straight-up creepy and even a little bit terrifying. That's what the Babadook did for me, it brought me back to that time in my life when irrational fears of the supernatural didn't seem so irrational. 


Amelia (Essie Davis) lost her husband in a car crash seven year earlier, since that time she has raised her son Sam (Noah Wiseman) on her own and it does not appear to have been an easy seven years. Her son is a handful to say the very least, a needy child with an active imagination prone to violent outbursts and irrational behaviors. Mom herself is no image of mental health either, a sleep deprived bundle of nerves deeply buried beneath a mountain of grief having not come to terms with the death of her beloved seven year earlier. 

One night Sam finds a mysterious pop-up book on his shelf and asks his mother to read it to him before bed. The book Mister Babadook is about a dark supernatural force that will inhabit your home and once inside you can't get rid of him, doesn't seem like the best book to read to an imaginative boy like Sam. Not unexpectedly Sam soon after begins to fear that Mr. Babadook is indeed inside the house, and when strange things start to occur in and around the family he attributes them to the dark storybook creature. Sam's prone to fantasy and this is not surprising, but soon enough mom herself becomes convinced that something dark is creeping into their lives, and she's right. 


Sam and his other are clearly dysfunctional family from the very beginning, Sam particularly seems unhinged but there's a nice switch up with that dynamic throughout the movie, and as annoying as Sam can be it does become harder to be sympathetic for the mom who as the story plays out becomes more and more erratic, quite possibly a real threat to the young boy. The film plays with the very real themes of mental illness, maternal fear and the accumulated effects of repressed grief and wraps it up with a supernatural menace that comes off as one of the eeriest creepypasta stories you have ever read, and some of those damn stories are pretty chilling. Watching it with my own young kids I could see how tense and creeped out they were while watching the film, which was quite a joy, seeing it through the eyes of my own children and sharing in their fright was priceless.
There's just not enough nice things I can say about the movie, it really did take me back to a simpler time when things scared me in a very real way and that's something very special. A very assured and sure-footed debut feature film from Jennifer Kent, not even the fact that the creature is barely glimpsed throughout the film distracted from the experience. A few small nitpicks to point out, Noah Wiseman playing the character of the troubled Sam might be a  bit too good in the part, you feel like you might slap him yourself at certain points, his outbursts are nerve shattering. Additionally, the finale doesn't quite live up to the promise of what came before it and I think the ambiguity of it might upset some in the audience who are seeking more definitive answers, but I loved it and give this a high recommend. 

Audio/Video: The Babadook arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a gorgeous HD presentation framed in the original scope aspect ratio (2.35:1), the film has a bit of a muted color scheme but the image is sharp with pleasing clarity and a fair amount of depth, a very nice HD presentation from Scream Factory. 

Audio options include English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and a more the immersive 5.1 surround mix. Perhaps even more so than the visuals the inspired sound design drives the frights home, a creepy and effective audio presentation that uses the surrounds to the fullest effect, the bumps in night in this film made me jump more than once.


Onto the bonus content we a have a varied range of content including four brief making of featurettes totalling just about 18-minutes in length, theatrical trailers, plus over an hour of interviews with the cast and crew. There are also a handful of deleted scenes and the original "Monsters" short film from Jennifer Kent, be advised to not watch the short before the main feature if you wish not to be spoiled. All in all we have about an hour and half of bonus content on this disc, which is none too shabby, though I would have enjoyed an audio commentary from writer-director Jennifer Kent, this being such an assured  and well crafted debut feature film, it might have made for an interesting listen.



This version being reviewed is the special edition with the limited-run deluxe packaging which comes with a very cool heavy card-stock slipcase emulating the Mister Babadook storybook from the film, complete with a very cool pop-up feature, which you must admit is pretty awesome. when making your purchase be aware that the "Monster" short film, deleted scenes and limited run pop-up packaging is exclusive to the Special Edition Blu-ray. Scream Factory, there's also a included a reversible sleeve artwork for your enjoyment but neither are as freaking cool as the pop-up slipcase.

Special  Features
- Limited-Run "Pop Up" Packaging
- Deleted Scenes (3 Mins)
- Cast And Crew Interviews with actors Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Hayley McElhinney, director Jennifer Kent, costume designer Heather Wallace, producer Kristina Ceyton, and producer Kristian Moliere (62 Mins) 

- Creating the Book with Illustrator Alex Juhasz (4 Mins) 
- A Tour of the House Set (7 Mins) 
- The Stunts: Jumping the Stairs (2 Mins)
- Behind-The-Scenes Of The Making Of The Film (3 Mins) 

- Special Effects: The Stabbing Scene (2 Mins) 
- Jennifer Kent's Short Film, "Monster" (10 Mins)
- 2 Theatrical Trailers (5 Mins) 


Verdict: A nightmarish kiddie-horror film that is something quite special, an engaging psychological chiller that ambiguous enough to leave itself open to various interpretations but visceral enough to terrify you regardless of how you read it. A nice blend of psychological scares and nightmarish elements with a solid cast, a high recommend. This one comes to Blu-ray from Scream Factory on April 14th,make sure to get the cool deluxe packaging special edition, it's worth it.


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