12/09/2014 05:38 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

Popcorn Preview: The Babadook

The Babadook (2014)
Cast includes: Essie Davis (The Matrix Revolutions), Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall (These Final Hours)
Writer/Director: Jennifer Kent (Babe: Pig in the City)
Genre: Horror | Drama | Thriller (93 minutes)

"Mom. Mom! I had that dream again." Before 6-year-old Samuel can go to sleep, they have to look under the bed and check all the closets. Amelia has to read "The Big Bad Wolf" twice before Sam nods off. The next morning, she's awakened by a crashing sound. Sam's interests are magic and homemade weapons. This time, he's made a catapult that hurls a cricket ball right through the window... basically it's an ordinary day. They don't appreciate Sam's overactive imagination much at school though. When they threaten to assign a fulltime monitor to supervise Sam, Amelia pulls him out of school. When they ask about "the boy's" dad, Sam says, "My dad's in the cemetery. He got killed driving mom to the hospital to have me." That's probably why Sam's birthdays are always laced with a bit of dread. "Poor little sweetheart," says Mrs. Roach, the elderly next-door neighbor. She thinks Sam should have a party for his 7th birthday.

Sam picks a new book from the shelf for his bedtime reading... "Mister Babadook." Amelia's never seen it before. It's an odd little book... looks handmade. "If it's in a word or in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook." It's a bit creepy for a children's book, Amelia thinks. "A rumbling sound [Ba-ba-ba], then three knocks [Dook Dook Dook]... Let me in!" Yikes, Sam is really going to have nightmares! Amelia hides the book. "I promise to protect you if you promise to protect me," says Sam. "Nothing bad's gonna happen, Sam. This monster thing has got to stop." "Ba-ba-ba." No one's at the door. DOOK. DOOK. DOOK! Seriously, this monster thing has got to stop! "The Babadook did it," says Sam. "Life is not always as it appears," Sam quotes from his magic instruction DVD. First Amelia tears up the book, but that's not good enough. Maybe burning it will work. Meanwhile, Amelia's sister really doesn't want Sam coming to their house any more. After Sam has a seizure and ends up in the hospital, the doctor thinks he's fine, except... "He's very committed to the monster theory." "That's an understatement."

If only Sam could be normal... but it's not just Sam the Babadook is after. When Amelia finally sees the Babadook, it looks just like the hand-drawn character in the book. However, just because it isn't slickly rendered with computerized special effects does make it any less frightening. Amelia and Sam really have nowhere to turn... not doctors, the police, the school, friends nor family... not even Sam's dead dad... "You just need to bring me the boy." Young Noah Wiseman plays "the boy." With his big eyes and toothy expressiveness, he goes from cute to menacing. Is he just a kid with an overactive imagination or does he see something others don't? Because this is an Australian film... the narrative and style don't conform to typical American standards. For example, the audience demographic isn't straightforward. It'll appeal to a cross between horror film enthusiasts and art house film buffs. That's not a combination that normally co-exists unless a film gains cult status, which it could. It's artistic but because it's not slick, we have to use our imaginations quite a bit. In fact, the scariest parts could well be those in our imagination. It's a frightening hour and a half... you might be glad you can tell your self, "It isn't real. It isn't real. It isn't real." "LET ME IN!"

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A sinister children's book comes to life, and there's no way to get rid of the Babadook

Popcorn Profile
Rated: NR (Violence)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Children's book monster
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure Entertainment

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