Full disclosure. The Babadook is an IFC Midnight release – same company that lovingly released the film I co-wrote, Beneath. (Vic Sage reviewed that here. Thanks Vic!) I say this because when Scream Factory asked me to review the Blu-ray, I was hesitant. I LOVE this film very much and I didn’t want my IFC Midnight connection to feel like I’m waxing the family car. Maybe for balance, I’ll write up some reviews of their movies I don’t like. And yes, that was a bad plug for my own film, but it’s also my blog post. And Beneath is also on Netflix.
Put that all aside because now we have The Babadook. And it’s awesome. The film deservedly ended up on several top ten lists of 2014. This Australian made thriller, written and directed by the supremely talented Jennifer Kent, is one of the smartest, thoughtful and creepiest horror film made in years. Beautiful writing, directing and acting, the film delivers on so many levels, I really can’t say enough about how good it is. In fact, upon my second viewing for this review, I realized I loved it more another time around.
The film’s simple plot – a young troubled boy protects his single mother from a storybook monster come to life – barely scratches the surface of what the film is really about. That’s what makes it a smart horror film – it’s actually about something. Family. Trust. Losing love. Addiction. Dealing with loss. The film abounds with so many human themes that every viewer will have a different, but strong reaction to the story. It also racks up the scares, and the creep factor is level 10. Stylistically, the film is as polished as any big budget studio picture. It may have been an indie, but it feels big league and I can’t wait to see what Kent does next. I’m not saying anything else about the film. You can find a trailer on the link below and decide for yourself. Any of you keeping count on my reviews know I rarely review anything made after 1990 and limit myself to retro films. (This is the freaking Retroist, after all.) However, I’m supporting this film in hopes it continues to find more audiences.
Scream Factory has put together a release mostly worthy of the film. You actually have the choice of THREE releases, each one with more features than the next. I received the Special Edition Blu-ray with the super cool pop-up book style artwork of the monster. However, there is a standard Blu-ray release and a DVD edition. The cost difference between the two Blu-rays seems nominal. The DVD is the lowest cost one. I know people have to watch their dimes, so if you can’t spend the bucks on the Blu-ray, get the DVD. The image and sound are superb, but that’s to be expected.
The big edition has some good behind the scenes interviews, although I wish they had put them together in a documentary as opposed to the EPK format. You do get a nice little doc about the making of the intricate pop up book prop. There is an interesting tour of the house set with the film’s production designer and he gives some great insight into how detailed and intentional each and every element of design was put together to help tell the story. Kent’s short film Monster, which inspired The Babadook, is also available only on the Special Edition and that is a great addition for the fans. The other Blu-ray and DVD do not have the deleted scenes or Monster on them, but have the rest of the features. I was hoping for an audio commentary because I think there is so much to this movie that I’d like to get more specifics on, but alas it is missing in all versions.
The Babadook is out now. I can’t MAKE you get it, but all I’m saying is that if if a pop up book called “Mr. Babadook” shows up in your kid’s bedroom one day, you will not be prepared.