Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"The Babadook" - - The Hipster Boogeyman

Wow, that trailer looks creepy!

And all movies are good as their trailer, right?

"The Babadook" is the Kickstarter-funded horror movie that supposedly wowed critics at Sundance but once again makes me think either all other critics are idiots or I am. The jury is eternally out on that one.

Style over substance is the name of the game here. While "The Babadook" does it's best to show it's a legitimate horror movie with the right lighting, cinematography, and sound, in the end it slams the breaks and says "Nope! I'm not a horror movie, I'm a REAL SERIOUS FILM!"

Either a scene from "Schindler's List" or "The Babadook," I don't remember.

"The Babadook" is the story of a woman, Amelia, who's husband died taking her to the hospital to give birth. Instead of a husband she has one of the most irritating kids to ever appear in film. Daniel Henshall, who played her son Robbie, is either the greatest actor of all time or some random child they deprived of Ritalin for months. I'm going to assume it's a little of both but either way his performance was the highlight of the movie.

Unprotected Sex: The Movie. Coming To A Uterus Near You.

Robbie has some issues, the primary one being his mother. She's never been quite right after seeing her husband's head get chopped off, and that's understandable. But she's also just rude to nearly everyone in the film and seems to think the world should stop and mourn at her feet. There's a few odd moments of sexual tension between her and her 7 year old son which is far more frightening than any Boogeyman. I understand the need to masturbate (boy, do I understand) but doing it at 8pm with your bedroom door unlocked knowing your son has a habit of jumping into your bed unexpectedly, that's some Lena Dunham shit right there.

But the movie is called "The Babadook" not "Creepy Mom" even though either title would be apt. The Babadook aka Mr. Babadook is a character from a pop-up book that Robbie finds in his collection of children's novels that somehow has been over looked all these years. It explains the story of a top hat wearing, claw fingered creature that screams "Let Me In!" as it jumps into children's beds. So basically picture Michael Jackson on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. After finding the book, Robbie starts to see the Babadook everywhere. Luckily, this plucky little kid has already built an arsenal of anti child molesting monster weapons including a dart launching cross bow, a back pack that doubles as a catapult, and a device that can drain Bryan Singer's hot tub.

OK I made that last one up. But someone should invent it, damnit!

"OK mom, I'm ready for Sunday School."

Of course because all horror movies have to, the mother doesn't believe him. Even though she begins seeing things herself like holes appearing and disappearing, destroying a book that then not only repairs itself but adds new pages (!), seeing the the Babadook herself. No, she's just going crazy is all!

After an hour of this, the Babadook crawls into her mouth and she runs around trying to kill her son. To defend himself, he stabs her, shoots her with a dart, and then hits her in the brain with a boulder launched by his back-a-pult. Nothing stops her, so then he caresses her face and she pukes the Babadook up, proving the old Hollywood adage that the only thing that can truly overcome evil is incestous and pedoplica love.

The movie then ends with the Babadook running into the cellar where Amelia kept all of her dead husband's things and the mom and the boy live happily ever after feeding it worms.

Wait, what?

See, the movie couldn't just be about a monster. That's too mainstream. So in the last act we discover that the Babdook isn't real! It's just all a manifestation of Amelia's grief! THIS IS A REAL FILM, DAMNIT! Not none of your hokey "Paranormal Activity" bullshit! This is a movie about a single mother dealing with loss and the downward spiral of hopelessness and learning that to move on you must deal with your sadness not run from it! Any of the weird stuff, it was all just in her head! Because that's real!!!

"Hey, remember that time I imagined you being dragged up the stairs?"
"Mom . . .that really happened . . ."
"Sure it did, son, sure it did."

So, in the tradition of "The Babadook," I think we need to re-evaluate the traditional 5 stages of grief into the 10 Stages:

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Babadook Book Finding (but it's all in your head even if your son sees it)
4. Bargaining
5. Puking Up Black Goo
6. Watching Your Son Dragged Upstairs By A Invisible Force (also in your head, even though your son has massive butt bruises ITS ALL IN YOUR HEAD!)
7. Depression
8. Rock Catapulted Into Your Brain
9. Acceptance
10. Worm Feeding A Babadook In Your Basement (everyday until you feel better or move out, then it's someone else's problem.)

"The Babadook" would have been a much better film if it stuck to it's concept, it's real concept not the one they changed mid-writing to be more 'serious', and had a single mother and her crazy son battling something external and powerful. The directing chops are there and the production design, sound and editing staff, and the actors themselves are all top notch. So why is the script so wonky? There was definite talent both behind and in front of the camera. I think the need to be serious in such a ridiculous genre is something that happens a lot and it rarely, if ever, turns out well.

You want to make a horror movie? Make a horror movie. Want to make a personal drama? Make one of those. But combining the two creates an unsatisfactory hybrid, like a Frankenstein monster made out of too many legs and not enough elbows. In the end, I give the "The Babadook" a pass. It's just too much of a mess.

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