The Babadook – Netflix movie of the day


It’s been a long time since I regularly watched horror movies. Back in the nineties I would always catch the late night fright flicks on TV (Evil Dead, The Fog, The Shining, etc.), and would go and see the newer ones (Blair Witch, Ringu, etc) in the cinema, but with the advent of Saw, Hostel and the rapid descent of the genre into torture porn I lost interest. I enjoy my horror when it leaves more to the imagination, and less when it’s trying to outdo itself by showing ever more gruesomeness.

As a result, I haven’t seen too much recently, and what I have seen tends to fall squarely into the poking-fun-at-the-genre category, like the quite excellent (and decidedly unscary) Cabin in the Woods. I’m writing this so you know where I’m coming from in my review of The Babadook. If you’re looking for a Human Centipede type extravaganze in horrendousness, this is not for you.


So what is The Babadook then? The setup is classic horror. There is the large empty house, stifled with a sense of grief ever since father, Oskar, died in a car accident while taking his wife, Amelia, to the hospital to deliver their baby. There is the boy, Sam, now seven years old, who fears a monster skulking in the night and busily prepares lethal contraptions to smash it’s head in. And there is the sinister children’s book ‘Mr Babadook’ which in very cutesy sing-song rhyme tells you how you can never get rid of it once you let it in. Of course the book is indestructable, and no hiding or tearing it to pieces can get rid of it.


First time director Jennifer Kent expertly sets up this premise in the opening scenes and then slowly starts playing with the rules. Sam, at first comes across as the most irritating child you’ll ever meet, obsessed with his monster, prone to night terrors, not giving his exhausted mother a wink of sleep or moment of peace. But then Amelia, on the brink of a breakdown, starts to feel haunted herself, and becomes more dangerous than the Babadook itself.


The storyline keeps you guessing as to what this monster really is, and how it ties into the very real grief felt by the death of Oskar. Acting is extraordinary throughout and both Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as Sam show off an impressive range as they move between sanity and delusion.

The Babadook is that rare horror film that gets under your skin and refuses to leave. As the poster has it:


The Babadook – 2014,  Australia – 1h 33m – by Jennifer Kent

These movies are available on the US version of Netflix at the time the post was written. As the catalogue changes often, and is not the same in each country, it might not be available where/when you are.

Netflix Movie of the Day – Force Majeure

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Last week we fired up the red button on our remote – yes, our TV actually has a dedicated Netflix button – and came across a recent Swedish movie by Ruben Östlund called Force Majeure (or Turist in the original language). It tells the story of the perfect modern family. Mother Ebba, father Tomas, two young children, boy girl, Harry and Vera. They ooze professional and personal success. Wealthy, good looking. Loving glances between the couple, children energetic and mostly well-behaved. We find them on a winter ski-break in the French alps, which it appears is not their first time, as they expertly navigate the slopes. The set-up is smooth and subtle. These are people who have it made, and seem perfectly contended in their lives. What would it take to break the equilibrium?

Force_Majeure2After a morning’s skiing, the family sits down at a restaurant terrace overlooking the valley. Controlled explosions boom through the valley and set off an avalanche. The restaurant goers turn to the spectacle, whip out their cell phones and start filming. So does our handsome family. The snow rolls down the mountain side, overwhelms the valley and rises over the terrace. Panic breaks out. Ebba reaches for the children. Tomas, phone in hand, turns and runs away. Within seconds the panic subsides, the avalanche stopped in time after all, but the damage is done.

At first they try to ignore what happened, in particular Tomas pretending as if nothing out of the ordinary took place. Ebba on the other hand can’t help but return to that moment where her husband ran off leaving her alone with the kids. It’s like a scab on their marriage that she can’t help but poke at. Over the following days, they meet up with friends, they fight, they argue, they try to come to terms with what each of them did.

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The movie sketches this very simple situation, one that could happen to any of us, and then lets the pieces fall where they may. The cinematography by Fredrik Wenzel throws the human comedy into sharp relief against the purity of the mountains, drawing crisp tableaus of pristine snowscapes, and contrasting them with the impersonal, lonely hallways of the ski resort. You can’t help but wonder how you yourself would react in a similar situation. Would you run? Would you stay? Would you be able to live with what you or your partner’s instincts choose?


 Force Majeure – 2014, Sweden – 2h 0m – by Ruben Östlund

These movies are available on the US version of Netflix at the time the post was written. As the catalogue changes often, and is not the same in each country, it might not be available where/when you are.