The Babadook Review

thebabadookSeven year old Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is borderline feral with his unchecked imagination and violent outbursts.  His mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), struggles to balance her work life and her attempts to parent her wild son on her own.  Her stress is further compounded by her continued grieving over the loss of her husband seven years prior.  When Samuel picks out the bed time tale “Mister Babadook,” an eerie pop-up book that seemed to appear from thin air, Amelia’s pushed to the end of her rope as the book’s title character becomes a menacing presence in their already dysfunctional lives.

Debut director Jennifer Kent utilizes a monochrome color palette and haunting sound to set the tone before the audience even catches a glimpse of the Babadook, which only amps up the tension.  Familiar haunted house tropes populate the first half of the film; Samuel converses with an unseen visitor, Amelia’s bed time is interrupted by footsteps outside her bedroom door, and every time she tosses out the book it reappears.  The second half delves fully into surreal psychological horror reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, taking on a much darker tone.

The strength of the film lies largely with the performances behind Amelia and Samuel.  The relationship between the mother and son are in constant fluctuation, alternating between loving and utter frustration.  The lack of a paternal presence features prominently at the core of the story; Amelia struggles with parenthood after the loss of her husband while Samuel is becoming more aware that his family life is not like everyone else’s.  Some moments you feel Amelia’s defeat at Samuel’s unruliness, and other moments you feel for Samuel due to his mother’s distance.  The fragility of their state of living makes the Babadook all the more upsetting. Essie Davis’ portrayal of Amelia is both heartbreaking and horrific, while maintaining that maternal love for Samuel throughout.

While the tension remains consistently palpable, and there are many terrifying moments, it just fell short of the hype machine.  Though I suspect I will be in the minority on this one.  For me, this was not the scariest movie I’ve seen in a while.  The film is well acted, beautifully shot, and emotionally investing, but much of the tension fizzled out instead of the explosive ending the film deserved.  Most excellent genre films are social metaphors, I just happen to prefer them to be a little more subtle. Realizing what exactly the Babadook is took away all of the fear, though it did succeed in creating a much richer and more fulfilling story.

Overall, the Babadook is a great entry to the horror genre by Australia and newcomer Jennifer Kent, though not as scary as most reviews would lead you to believe.  Another shining example of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Babadook is set for release on DirectTV October 30, and wider release on November 28th.  Check out the website, and sign up on the email list to be notified on updates for the “Mister Babadook” pop-up book release.  You know, if you want to keep your children up all night.

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Cannibal Dinner Party

So last night was the season five premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.  Did you watch?  Between last season’s finale with heavy hints of cannibalism, the Hannibal tv series, and the very excellent film We Are What We Are (2013) I’d been imspired to create a cannibal themed meal of my own.

I admit, I took a lot of shortcuts and the end result was a hybrid of classy Hannibal and southern Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Cannibal dinner

 

The meal itself consisted of a bbq spread complete with chopped beef stuffed into a custom made rib cage, broccoli cheese casserole, cole slaw, loaded mashed potatoes and beans.  Very southern, right?  But then I decided to amuse myself putting the potatoes in a martini glass and topping with the beef, riffing off of the loaded baked potatoes commonly found in bbq joints.  My favorite piece of the entire meal may have been the cheese tray, however.

Flayed skin skull

Take a plastic store bought skull (make sure you wash this well prior to using), smear your favorite spread evenly over the service, and layer on prosciutto.  For this one I used a cream cheese chive spread.  My particular skull wasn’t thrilled to participate so he refused to stand up, but putting a little blob of the spread on the tray and directly setting the skull on it worked well to keep him in place.  This particular “Flayed Skin” appetizer is versatile, and has the added bonus of amusing and grossing out guests.

Cannibal dinner

Of course dinner couldn’t be completed without dessert, so a fruit tray was served alongside severed finger cupcakes.  You can find the royal icing fingers on amazon here, or find them at your local Michael’s.  If I hadn’t been short on time, I might have attempted to serve intestines  for dessert.

severed finger cupcakes

 

I’m very lucky to have friends willing to entertain my strange ideas, and I enjoyed every minute of this dinner.  Not onto planning an even more creative Halloween menu.

Houston Halloween Events

It’s finally October!  My favorite month of the year.  I’ve been scouring the internet looking for festive ideas and thought I’d share some of the local events I’ve had my eye on.

Houston Halloween Festival- October 19th

HORRORFEST

The annual zombie walk for charity has now been upgraded to a full on Halloween festival held partly in Minute Maid Park.  The event features musical acts, pumpkin patch, haunted maze, makeup effects artists, vendors, horror film industry celebrities, and a zombie walk.  Tickets and more information can be found here.

Evil Dead the Musical- October 17th through November 1st

Evil dead the musical

You may remember my previous write up last year, when I visited San Antonio’s production of the bloody musical.  This year the production is making its way to Houston (Pasadena more specifically), via Stage Door Inc. Tickets are only $15, with the option of purchasing a zombie survival kit for an additional $5.  The kit contains items meant to protect clothing against the inevitable blood splattering from this very messy, very fun production.  Productions of this show are popping up across the country, so check here to find cities near you.

Dismember the Alamo- October 25th

DismemberTheAlamo_Poster-2

My favorite theater is putting on a four film mystery horror marathon.  The line up won’t be revealed until just prior to showtime, but with the Alamo Drafthouse rest assured that it will be worth it.  As if a costume contest and the Drafthouse’s trademark pre-show isn’t enough to entice you, perhaps seeing scream queen Barbara Crampton live in attendance will entice you.  Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, You’re Next) isn’t just showing up as a guest, but is also assisting with the programming.  Dismember the Alamo isn’t just a Houston exclusive event- look for it at your local Alamo Drafthouse. Each venue will have their own special guest. Tickets for the Houston event can be purchased here , and information on other locations hosting Dismember the Alamo can be found here.

Being that it’s only October 2nd, I’ll share more discoveries as I find them.  What are you most looking forward to this Halloween season?