Australia / 11 minutes / bw / New South Wales Film and Television Office, Young Filmmakers Fund, Maya Dir & Scr: Jennifer Kent Pr: Isabel Perez Cine: Jackie Farkas Cast: Susan Prior, Luke Ikimis-Healey, Trash Vaudeville.
One of the movies that I enjoyed the most of the 2014 crop was Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, starring Essie Davies as a beleaguered single mom who doesn’t know which makes her life more of a nightmare, her hyperactive son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) or the other monster, The Babadook, which he swears is out to get them and which does indeed soon manifest. The Babadook had its genesis nearly a decade earlier in this short movie, which apparently was a great success on the festival circuit.
Luke Ikimis-Healey as Samuel: “Mummy, I’m killing a monster for you!”
Mother (Susan Prior) carries on stoically doing the dishes as her sworded boy (Luke Ikimis-Healey) rampages behind her . . .
. . . but later she’s driven to pleading with him to cool things down a bit.
It’s a very good short, and I jumped clear out of my socks in all the right places. If anything, it’s even more effective than the feature because everything is stripped down to the absolute basics; moreover, it’s left far more up to us how literally we want to take the portrayed events. The cast is just three-strong: Prior as the long-suffering mother, Ikimis-Healey as the obnoxiously shrieking, bloodthirsty boy Samuel, and Vaudeville as the monster that, improbably, happens to exist, just as Samuel said it did—which is why he kept trying to kill its representation among his doll collection.
Prior is superb as the mother driven to the end of her tether and who thus, when finally confronted by the fang-toothed monster, responds with a bellow of “Go. Back. To. Your. Room!” (So maybe we were wrong in our earlier guesses as to the identity of the frightening monster?) Until that cathartic moment she has displayed just the right mixture of love and loathing for her botherous offspring; thereafter they both know that they can settle down calmly to loving each other—and to sleep—without fear that the monster will interfere again.
What Mother sees in the cellar.
Monster has a wit that’s unusual in horror movies—in fact, in a weird way it’s almost a sitcom. However you choose to view it, it’s well worth doing so. And the music-box outro offers a pleasingly caustic commentary on what has gone before.
The monster (Trash Vaudeville) manifests itself full-fledged.
The director herself has posted a copy of this movie on Vimeo.