Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Those questions are part of the central appeal of this movie. We begin wondering if Sam is disturbed mentally, if there are some serious things wrong. Eventually I came to think "what if he's seeing his inner demons manifested for real in front of him?" That's a scary thought. We then wonder if maybe Amelia is getting caught in Sam's delusions, only to have that flipped on us. Is Sam not the one who's disturbed? Is Amelia falling apart? I even wondered at one point if Sam was not actually there, and was instead a manifestation of Amelia's inner emotions she'd been ignoring.
Finally, I can't believe the incredible work done here by Jennifer Kent as a writer and director. In the writing, there's a deceptive depth to much of the movie that could be ignored if you weren't really thinking about it. There's nothing flashy in the language or characterizations, but everything is written just right. In the direction, Kent has surrounded herself with extraordinary work from Production Designer Alex Holmes, who sets up a truly extraordinary house for much of the action to take place in. Cinematographer Radek Ladczuk also does wonderful work, again not flashy but often gorgeously playing with the light and shadows of this wonderful house. And Kent herself, in addition to surrounding herself with great talent, throws in nice filming touches (like Amelia falling while she sleeps) and most especially keeps the movie in check, not getting over indulgent and risking wearing out the movie's welcome or dissipating the tension she's built up as a storyteller. It will be interesting to see if she becomes a director worth following. The horror genre doesn't often give us master filmmakers, to be honest, but the filmmaking behind The Babadook is of such a high caliber that Kent may have bucked that trend. I hope so.