Tag Archive: The Babadook

A lot of horror films aren’t great, so it’s even more rare to find a horror sequel that gets the job done. The Conjuring was a huge hit back in the summer of 2013, scaring the pants off of critics and making over $300 million worldwide in the process. A sequel to this supernatural shocker was only inevitable, but no one expected it to be almost as good as the original. Returning to the director’s chair is James Wan, who has essentially become a horror juggernaut, making franchises out of Saw, Insidious and now The Conjuring. While most of the sequels to his hit films have been misfires – including the dreadful Conjuring spinoff AnnabelleThe Conjuring 2 is the rare horror sequel that works. Utilizing effective jump scares and frightening imagery, it’s a legitimately scary horror film that’s perfect to see with a crowd.

Six years after their investigation into the haunting of the Perron family, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) continue investigating the paranormal. Having just looked into the haunting of Amityville, there are still many skeptics who don’t believe the claims made by the Warrens. But that might all change when Ed and Lorraine travel to England to help a mother (Frances O’Connor) whose home is being terrorized by an otherworldly force that’s formed an attachment to her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). The evidence that this is a real haunting seems strong, but the church wants the Warrens to dig a little deeper to ensure that this isn’t a hoax. What they discover is one of their most terrifying and dangerous cases yet.

The biggest problem with The Conjuring 2 – and really the film’s only major misstep – is that it’s way too long. Unless you’re making an epic horror film like The Shining or The Exorcist, every director should try to generally keep their horror films less than two hours. The Conjuring 2 clocks in at an egregious two hours and fourteen minutes, which is over twenty minutes longer than its predecessor. A large chunk of these extra minutes are devoted to developing the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren and while that’s fine in theory, a lot of their individual scenes should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Not only does this cause the film to overstay its welcome, it also severely disrupts the flow of the movie. There’s at least one large segment of the film without any legitimate scares and this means that the sequel is unable to match the near-continuous dread of its predecessor.

But if this film had been shorter and tighter, there’s a chance that it could have ended up better than the original. There are some really great scares here that are both subtly scary and in-your-face obvious. One of the best scenes in the movie involves a painting depicting a demon nun. Lorraine Warren chases a spirit into a dark room and finds a painting of the being hanging on the wall. In the darkness, the painting looks like it could be real, but Wan ensures that the audience is never certain. It’s a great scene of anticipation; we know the scare is coming, but we don’t know when. Scenes like this one show how Wan is so great at manipulating an audience for maximum effect. He toys with our anticipation and knowledge of horror films, thus playing the audience like a frightened fiddle.

There are also some quieter scares in the film that work like gangbusters. The aforementioned nun is incredibly discomforting and its appearance at the end of a long hallway is easily the scariest image in the film. If anything is going to frighten you once the movie is over, it’s this. But another great scene occurs when the Warrens are attempting to discover if Janet is really being haunted. Janet tells them that the old man who is haunting her will only appear if everyone in the room turns their backs to her. They comply and while the camera is focused on Ed Warren, a sinister presence slowly begins to transform in Janet’s place. It’s a creepy effect that isn’t initially obvious, but it’s definitely one of the most unique scenes in the film.

Not every scare is quite as effective and one of the monsters feels strangely reminiscent of 2014’s The Babadook, but this is definitely a notch above most modern horror flicks. Wan doesn’t make raw, visceral horror films, choosing instead to treat his material like an amusement park ride. It provides some great thrills while you’re in the moment, but it certainly isn’t likely to keep you awake at night. Unlike this year’s brilliant The Witch, which some people may find uncomfortable or unnecessarily slow, The Conjuring 2 is a horror film that pretty much everyone can enjoy.

The Conjuring 2 receives 3/4


The Babadook – Movie Review

This decade hasn’t been too kind to horror films. While the genre has certainly produced some good films in recent years, there have been a lot more that would be considered bad. But the Austrailian horror flick The Babadook is being touted by many as not only one of the best horror films of the decade, but one of the scariest films of all time. Even William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, claimed that The Babadook was the most terrifying film that he had ever seen. I’m certainly not going to make those grandiose claims, but I will say that it’s a very good film, one with striking dramatic resonance to go along with the scares. And while the film is undeniably creepy, I actually think that the film’s dramatic elements work far better than any of its scares. Writer/director Jennifer Kent’s debut feature may have been overhyped, but it’s still a well-made film about the pains of motherhood.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is still trying to get over the death of her husband, who tragically died in a car accident while driving her to the hospital to give birth. Now she lives alone with her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a dysfunctional a young boy who is always getting into trouble. He’s often too much for Amelia to handle and her life is becoming increasingly more stressful because of him. One night, Samuel finds a picture book on his shelf and asks his mother to read it to him. The book is entitled Mister Babadook and talks of a strange creature that will plague the lives of those who encounter it. Soon after, Samuel begins to claim that he can see Mister Babadook and this only makes his life more dysfunctional. Amelia’s life begins to unravel at the seams and it only gets worse when the threat of Mister Babadook turns out to be real.

The Babadook is more than just a horror movie, with the title creature acting as a metaphor for Amelia’s grief over her dead husband. It’s an added layer of dramatic heft that isn’t typically seen in films that feature spooky creatures. Amelia’s story is a sad one and watching her wrestle with her demons makes for some of the most emotional moments in the entire film. How can she possibly celebrate her son’s birthday when that day also marks the anniversary of her husband’s death? Essie Davis is really good in the role, particularly when things begin to spiral out of control and everyone that she reaches out to refuses to believe her. As Samuel, Noah Wiseman delivers a surprisingly great performance, particularly for someone so young. Together, these two form a believably strained mother-son relationship.

When things begin to turn sour for Amelia and Samuel, the film is undeniably creepy throughout, but it’s never quite able to reach the level of being truly terrifying. The Babadook book that Amelia reads to her son offers some truly eerie gothic images, as does a dream sequence where Amelia watches a Georges Méliès-esque Babadook production on television. When the creature itself appears, it’s also very unsettling; Kent keeps the creature in the shadows for the majority of the film and never relies on jump scares. A scene where Amelia sees the creature standing in the doorway of her neighbor’s house is so much scarier because it doesn’t feature the loud, jolty noise that Hollywood horror is accustomed to. But the film is also filled with horror clichés, including flickering lights, an object that reappears after being thrown away and a creature that only a young child is able to see. But the bulk of the film’s scares come from Frank Lipson’s unbelievably disturbing sound design. The noises that the creature makes are so frightening that they make the rest of the film’s scares seem tame in comparison.

The film’s ending makes sense dramatically and in the context of the film’s themes, but it doesn’t really work plot-wise and it left me feeling a tad unsatisfied. There’s also a subplot involving a love interest for Amelia that goes absolutely nowhere, but Kent’s film works regardless of these flaws. It’s a dramatically resonant tale about a woman struggling to overcome her husband’s death and be a good mother to her son. The Babadook won’t keep you up at night like I had hoped it would, but it’s still a very good film regardless. I feel like the film would fall squarely between a 3 and a 3.5 on my rating scale, but I’m feeling generous, so I’ll round up.

The Babadook receives 3.5/4