Archive for Essie Davis

Women in Horror Month 666: Top 6 Fierce Females of Recent Horror.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

February means one thing for the female horror fan and no it’s not Valentine’s Day! Although if you’d like to get me a fresh, warm, bloody beating heart or a bouquet of red roses, I’m not complaining! (Just Kidding!). It’s the sixth annual Women in Horror Recognition Month. The cause began as a way to reflect and promote female talent within the genre and give support to various groups in horror who are under-represented mainly relating to race and gender and on the whole both together. Horror has been a male-dominated genre for decades and for a long time the traditional horror heroine came in the shape of the all-American white girl. While we’re not completely there yet, things have started to change; we have a range of female directors showcasing their bloodthirsty visions on screen as well as more dynamic roles being created for women in modern horror.

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You can’t really discuss Women in Horror Month without mentioning the twisted twins Jen and Sylvia Soska who have inspired a new generation of female filmmakers and fans alike. Most recently they teamed up with WWE Studios to create the sequel to See No Evil, and just completed their second collaboration with WWE with the action film Vendetta, proving they can take on any genre! 2014 saw Australian director Jennifer Kent gain well-deserved success on her terrifying and unique addition to the genre, The Babadook. All-rounder Jessica Cameron debuted her first directorial effort, inspired by Dead Hooker in a Trunk, titled Truth or Dare which I’m told is incredibly twisted and violent! On the short film circuit, Jill Sixx Gevargizian has recently garnered attention for Call Girl, a menacing little piece that’s interestingly shot, starring Tristan Risk and Laurence R Harvey, and in 2013 Isabel Peppard created an innovative and beautiful stop-motion animation titled Butterflies which was most recently screened at Australia’s Monster Fest. A groundbreaking all female anthology is also on its way, the eagerly anticipated XX that’ll feature segments from Jennifer Chambers Lynch and Mary Harron to name a few.

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For more information on Women in Horror Month 2015, visit Hannah Neurotica’s wonderful website: http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/ which includes AxWound, a blog dedicated to gender and horror. Its a great way to look out for talented women working in the genre today, including an interview with award-winning actress, director and artist Gigi Saul Guerrero. Take a look at the Massive Blood Drive PSA where several of the above names have created short segments to encourage blood donation. This year has proven to be an awesome collection of twisted gender-bending and goreific effects:

As a female horror fan there have been plenty of strong women characters in place over the years to identify with, problematically they have all been created by men and if you agree with Carol Clover’s theory their purpose is to provide an outlet for a male audience which links to iconic characters such as Laurie Strode or Ripley. There are so many ways in which horror needs to move forward and this is just the beginning, we need to see horror movies with a diverse range of strong female heroines of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Genre women are beginning to find their voice and despite the obstacles and challenges we must continue to support this movement so these voices continue to be heard.

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As a dedicated horror fan and reviewer my contribution to raising awareness for women in horror is a countdown of some of the most intriguing and dynamic characters from films all over the world to have emerged from the genre over this past year. This is a look at the well-written and developed characters that made the top titles of 2014 the most talked about horror films. Will they become future genre icons? There’s a strong possibility and here’s why…

WARNING: There will be some spoilers. 

  1. Amelia, The Babadook, Portrayed By Essie Davis.

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While she may not be the most glamorous of characters, single mother Amelia is an unforgettable force that drives the terror in the critically-acclaimed, The Babadook. Suffering from terrible nightmares re-living the tragic night of her husband’s death and the birth of son Samuel, Amelia struggles to hold down her job, care for her boy as well as deal with snide comments from fellow mothers. Amelia is a fragile character, which is interesting in terms of this expectation where lead females in horror have to be strong and kick ass. There’s most definitely a human quality about her as she’s written with honesty and realism which then corresponds wonderfully in how she copes with the threat of the ‘monster under the bed’ trope. For those of you who have seen the film, you’ll know that with Amelia there is more than meets the eye. For a seemingly ordinary character there is much more to her than first imagined.

 

  1. Kylie Bucknell, Housebound, Portrayed By Morgana O’Reilly

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Twenty-something tearaway Kylie Bucknell is an unlikely heroine in Richard Johnstone’s highly entertaining horror/comedy Housebound. Moody, cynical and antagonistic, Kylie is the opposite of the traditional lead female protagonist in terms of likability. She isn’t best pleased to be put under house arrest after she is caught robbing an ATM machine. What makes matters worse is she is forced back under the same roof as her overbearing, yet well-intentioned mother who has her suspicions that their house must be haunted. Johnstone claimed he wanted to create a leading lady that ‘wouldn’t scare easily’ which works perfectly as along with Kylie the audience is able to remain as sceptical as she is until further developments are revealed over the course of the film. There is certainly something different about her, she’s frustrating yet endearing to a degree. Her characterisation comes full circle as she shows she isn’t afraid to take risks and proves to be resourceful when it comes to saving the day.

 

  1. Anna Peterson, The Guest, Portrayed By Maika Monroe

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Anna is the only daughter of the grief-stricken Peterson family, the subjects of Adam Wingard’s fantastical love letter to 80’s action flicks, The Guest. Smart and sophisticated, Anna is one step ahead of her family in figuring out there is something darker at play when it comes to their mysterious new house guest, David who claims to have fought alongside their deceased son in war. Incredibly stylish with an awesome taste in music, Anna is no fool and will do what it takes to survive and protect her family even if it means taking on an unstoppable force in the shape of experiment-gone-horribly wrong David. Anna carefully researches who she’s up against, aligning her facts before facing confrontation. On the whole she is just an average girl in an extraordinary situation however manages to outlive a number of armed military men! Anna is The Guest’s standout female character and a surprising survivor.

 

  1. Louise, Spring, Portrayed By Nadia Hilker

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Beautiful, mystical and enchanting, Louise is the core female character in the most romantic genre film of the year. She captures the heart of protagonist Evan in the idyllic Italian setting. Louise harbours a dark secret that threatens their entire romance but also enhances the vulnerability behind the confident exterior she projects. Louise is charismatic, charming and fun but also enigmatic and fearful. She has a naturalistic quality to her under the monster movie metaphor as she represents the fears and anxieties of beginning a new relationship and having that jeopardised if the other person was to discover something ‘different’ about the person they’re with. At times she comes across as a lonely creature that holds herself back but at the same she has a lot to offer. Louise is a captivating yet complex character and unique within her own mythology (you’ll have to watch the film to find out more!).

 

  1. Amy, See No Evil 2, Portrayed by Danielle Harris

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If you read my review of the Soska’s most recent feature See No Evil 2, you’ll be aware I wasn’t 100% sold on the film. Its redeeming feature for me was Scream Queen Danielle Harris’s portrayal of morgue attendant Amy. Amy is forced to cancel her birthday plans when a number of blood-soaked bodies slaughtered by serial killer Jacob Goodnight arrive at the hospital causing her to become stuck on the graveyard shift. Her loyal friends subsequently bring the party to her, unknowingly offering up fresh victims to the not-so-dead killer. In typical post-modern slasher style, Amy has been written with depth, allowing the audience to empathize and root for her as we should for a traditional final girl. What makes Amy all the more heartbreaking is her view on life and reasons for working in the morgue instead of chasing her ambitions as well as the unexpected twist on the character making her part in the film all the more meaningful. Amy is See No Evil 2’s saving grace, strong, intelligent and endearing, there’s a reason Danielle Harris is the ‘final girl’ because she plays roles like this incredibly well.

 

  1. Eva Sanchez, The Purge: Anarchy, Portrayed By Carmen Ejogo

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A character unaware of her full potential until her whole world is thrown into chaos. Eva Sanchez is a hard worker, trying to get by and earn whatever little money she can to provide for her ill father and teenage daughter. After her father offers himself up for purging to the wealthy in order to pull his family out of debt, Eva locks down her apartment and hopes that she and her daughter make it through the night. However when a scorned enemy breaks in and attempts to murder them, Eva and Cali are thrust out onto the streets. Luckily they join forces with a mysterious protector named Frank who has a hidden agenda, followed by a young couple also caught up in the anarchy when their car is jacked. Eva proves headstrong and somewhat of a leader as she works along with Frank to ensure the groups safety. Eva is compassionate and fierce; she comes to realize her true strength when faced with a harrowing ordeal.

Do you agree with my choices, are there any other kick ass females of recent movies that should have made the list? Feel free to comment below or tweet me on @hayleyr1989.

As a special extra, here’s something a little Nasty from the Ghostface Girls:

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Hayley’s Top 10 Genre Films of 2014.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals, Love Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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It’s that time of year again to reflect on which films struck a chord and made a lasting impression. For me the genre has continued to impress throughout 2014 offering up a variety of different contenders to select from. There’s been psychological scares and strange shocks making 2014 a real interesting year for horror. The films this year have dared to be more experimental taking our beloved genre in whole new directions and there have been some impressive performances all round. You may notice that there’s been a bit of a Australian and Canadian invasion this year as both countries have taken the genre by storm. The choices on this list will evidently be subjective so please comment if you agree or disagree with my picks. Without further ado, here is my highly recommended horror of 2014:

 10. The ABC’s of Death 2 (2014)

Directed By Various

Country: USA, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Japan.

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The ABC’s of Death 2 surprisingly defied expectations, greatly improving on the 2013 original anthology. With a clearer direction this time around, the chosen 26 directors each created compelling and strong segments that went from being creative to grotesque to darkly humoured. The ABC’s of Death 2 is guaranteed to have something to please horror fans. Stand out segments include Julian Barratt’s comical B is for Badger, Larry Fesenden’s Halloween-esque N is for Nexus, Juan Martinez draw-dropping S is for Split and Jerome Stable’s brutal V is for Vacation. The ABC’s of Death 2 is one of the strongest anthology films of recent years.

Read my full review here. 

9. Stage Fright (2014)

Directed By Jerome Stable.

Country: Canada

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Stage Fright cleverly combines the slasher film with the musical movie in this twisted homage that screams Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Friday the 13th. After the brutal death of her Broadway star mother ten years ago, Camilla Swanson auditions for the role she made famous in the revival of the summer camp production of The Haunting of the Opera. Whether the curtain will rise on opening night is another matter as a masked maniac takes to the blade bumping off the cheerfully camp cast and crew one by one. Stage Fright has the makings of a cult musical with its genre hybridity and its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Allie MacDonald gives a star performance alongside Meat Loaf and Minnie Driver. There’s some catchy and well crafted musical numbers from a range of genres as well as an Iron Maiden-esque killer! Stage Fright is a lot of fun while incorporating a dark tone and supplying plenty of gore!

Read my full review here.

8. Perfect Sisters (2014)

Directed By Stanley M. Brooks

Country: Canada

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Abigail Breslin gives the performance of the year in Stanley M. Brooks’s true crime thriller surrounding teenage sisters who callously murdered their alcoholic, deadbeat mother in the bathtub in 2003. Based on the case known as ‘The murder of Linda Anderesen’Perfect Sisters draws the audience into a dark and depressing place that carefully depicts how two young girls are driven to murder and their downward spiral in the aftermath. Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley are two actresses to keep an eye out for as they deliver powerhouse performances and depict a convincing sisterly bond when playing the notorious Andersen sisters. Perfect Sisters provides an insight into the early days of the internet and the dark side of being able to find anything online. Exceedingly grim in tone and utterly compelling, Perfect Sisters will leave you captivated until the devastating end.

Read my full review here.

7. Pieces of Talent (2014)

Directed By Joe Shauffer

Country: USA

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Pieces of Talent came as one of the most exceptional genre indie flicks of the year. In concept it’s something us hardened horror fans have seen all before but it needs to be commended for how it takes a traditional psycho killer storyline and does something completely experimental with it which works especially well. Pieces of Talent doesn’t hold back on the brutality as it tells the tale of an aspiring actress named Charlotte played by Kristi Ray who’s down on her luck. Stuck in a dead end job with far greater dreams, things appear to turn around for her when she develops a wonderful friendship with amateur filmmaker David (played by Writer David Long). David is one deranged director who offers Charlotte an opportunity to star in his latest independent film. David expects his actors to take method acting to a whole other level leaving Charlotte with more than she ever bargained for. Horrific and arty Pieces of Talent is one unusual meta film that deserves to be seen by everyone who likes their horror brutal and bloody made by filmmakers who are willing to take risks, offering up something much more diverse.

You can now see the movie for free on the official website: http://piecesoftalent.com/amissingpiece/

Read my full review from Love Horror.

6. Tusk (2014)

Directed By Kevin Smith

Country: USA. 

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Tusk is a movie that’s difficult to forget once viewed. It creates an unexplainable strange feeling that leaves a lasting impression. A podcast host named Wallace (played by Justin Long) visits Canada to interview the latest internet sensation the Kill Bill Kid. Upon his arrival he finds himself at the funeral of his interview opportunity, but little does he know something far more sinister and extraordinary awaits him. Answering an ambiguous letter he spots at a convenience store, Wallace embarks on a journey that leads him to an isolated mansion inhabited by the elderly Howard Howe (Michael Parks). After being drugged, the maniacal Howe plans to perform some amateur surgery on Wallace in order to transform him into a Walrus! Tusk is probably one of the more bizarre films seen this year particularly from a big name director mostly known for his successful comedies. Tusk combines dark humour with twisted set pieces and a surprising emotional impact creating a disturbing cinematic experience where you won’t know whether to laugh or be horrified.

Read my full review here.

5. The Canal

Directed By Ivan Kavanagh 

Country: Ireland

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Forget mainstream haunting films such as Insidious or The Conjuring; look no further than this Irish independent chiller. The Canal delivers a classic old school ghost story that creeps under the skin. Thought-provoking and incredibly terrifying The Canal depicts the harrowing ordeal of a single father following the mysterious murder of his adulterous wife. Traumatized film archivist David played powerfully by Rupert Evans, keeps the audience with him for the entire time as he comes to terms with all consuming grief while suspecting that he’s being haunted by the former sinister inhabitants in his house. There’s a fantastic supporting role from Steve Oram as the suspicious police detective and Callum Heath who plays David’s young son Billy is the most adorable child actor in any horror film. The relationship between father and son and naturalistic chemistry guarantees we become invested as the film plays out. The Canal keeps up intrigue making the plot twists even more gut-wrenching as they unfold. Ivan Kavanagh achieves a great deal on a low budget that it’s hard to believe the film wasn’t made with a lot more money than it was. The Canal is an unforgettable atmospheric piece.

Read my full review here.

4. Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (2013)

Directed By Stuart Simpson

Country: Australia

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There’s something about ice cream and horror that fits together nicely from the Cornetto trilogy to 2011’s Some Guy Who Kills People, and this Australian offering is no exception. Stuart Simpson’s compelling, unconventional feature is a strong character study of an introverted ice cream van driver who develops an intense and unhealthy obsession with a cheesy Australian soap actress. Warren Thompson, played by the phenomenal Glenn Maynard is a man on the edge. He faces daily abuse from the local thug and struggles to come to terms with the accidental death of his pet cat.  His only solace comes in the form of soap opera Round the Block which he watches religiously but how long will it take before poor Warren snaps?! Maynard whole heartedly carries the film in a heartbreaking and unforgettable performance. Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla provides an insight into the real horror of humanity and blurs the lines between reality and fantasy coming in as one of the year’s most captivating films.

Read my full review here.

3. The Babadook

Directed By Jennifer Kent

Country: Australia

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The Babadook is arguably the most hyped up film of 2014 and it absolutely deserves the praise it receives. It isn’t quite what it seems which is completely why everybody can’t stop talking about it. Its title of ‘Scariest Movie of the Year’ is absolutely justified as while initially it may not have a significant impact, its after viewing when you sit and think about it, it crawls under the skin and infiltrates the darkest corner of your mind. It’s an effective psychological horror film that keeps up a sense of dread as it focuses on a widowed single mother unable to cope with the premature death of her husband and struggling to raise her increasingly difficult young son born on the night of the fateful accident that claimed her husband’s life. One evening Amelia (played by the outstanding Essie Davis) reads an ambiguous bedtime story to son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) called Mister Babadook. The book’s origins are unknown but what follows is a series of nightmare fuel as a dark fantasy turns into reality…or does it? Cleverly The Babadook allows for interpretation as it acts as a metaphor for mental illness and bereavement. Essie Davis delivers one of the best performances witnessed all year while young Noah Wiseman proves to be a dynamic young actor as troubled Samuel. Beyond disturbing, The Babadook is a must-see for 2014. Jennifer Kent’s feature debut is no doubt a future classic and really breaks the barriers in horror cinema for female filmmakers to come.

Keep telling yourself: There’s no such thing as The Babadook…dook…dook!

Read my full review here.

2. The Editor

Directed By Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy

Country: Canada

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The Editor was one of the most popular films that toured the festival circuit this year. The latest film from Canadian film-collective Astron-6, makers of crazy, 80’s action throwback Manborg is an affectionate homage to the Italian giallo sub-genre. The Editor doesn’t require its audience to have an extensive knowledge of giallo in order to get something out of it as it maintains to be downright entertaining throughout. Its hands down this year’s most visually stylish film with its deep, intense lighting and perfectly framed shots of classic giallo iconography. The Editor tells the tale of famed editor Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) who becomes embroiled in a number of violent murders. What follows is a series of crazy events that’ll blow your mind! Its an appreciation of an era of horror that reigned from the 1960’s-1980’s and goes all out to capture the tone of those types of films particularly with its Goblin inspired soundtrack. Along the way we meet an aray of colourful characters performed outstandingly by the likes of Paz de la Huerta, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Laurence R. Harvey, Udo Kier and Tristan Risk. The Editor isn’t afraid to push the boundaries and has fun with what it does, it’s rip-roaringly funny with its intentional dubbing and hilarious one liners. Astron-6 share a unique sense of humour and there is no one out there quite like them. The Editor is one film I could most certainly watch over and over again, preferably joined by a glass of Italian red to fully get into the spirit!

1. Spring (2014)

Directed By Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson

Country: USA

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Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s second feature, Spring proves how impressive this directorial duo have become. Following the success of 2012’s Resolution, Moorhead and Benson continue to explore in-depth human relationships in this romantic monster movie that incorporates its own mythology. When Evan tragically loses his mother to cancer he makes a life altering decision and travels to Italy for some much needed soul searching. However he gets more than he bargained for when he is captivated by a beautiful and enigmatic woman named Louise. The two embark on a passionate relationship that at the same time enthrals and frightens them both. Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker have an undeniable on-screen chemistry as their characters experience the mysterious early stages of a new relationship. What’s wonderful about Spring is that it takes its time to develop its two leading characters allowing us to get invested in them. It’s never clear cut which direction the film will take which keeps us mesmerized and unable to take our eyes off the screen, a credit to Benson’s screenplay. Moorhead’s cinematography is breath-taking and really makes use of the spectacular locations. These two are some of the most interesting filmmakers of recent years as they don’t play by the rules and create something totally unique, placing their individual mark on the genre. They do something different and do it exceptionally well. Spring is my top pick of 2014 as it’s the most well written, thought-provoking and beautiful film that’s emerged from the genre this year.

Read my full review here.

Honourable Mentions: Housebound (2014), New Zealand, What We Do In The Shadows (2014), New Zealand, The Sacrament (2013), USA and The Guest (2014), USA. 

Head over here for podcasts and articles from my collaborative project Ghostface Girls and check out our joint top 5 genre films of the year video:

Thank you for reading. I’d like to wish my fangtastic readers a spooktacular Christmas and New Year. Let’s hope 2015 has such sights to show us after a phenomenal 2014!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

The Babadook (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Helmed as the scariest film of 2014, The Babadook was certainly worth a look to see if its hype is to be believed. Director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin has made no secret of his praise for Jennifer Kent’s feature debut claiming that it will ‘scare the hell out of you’, which is certainly no understatement. Australian Horror Cinema is currently in a really strong place with a range of eclectic films that celebrate different angles of the genre, this year Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and The Babadook have proven to be genre defying films of a high standard.

With a female director at the reigns The Babadook has received a great deal of attention, demonstrating how women can make frightening films just as well as men. There’s Friedkin, Kubrick, Carpenter and now Kent. The film has come as a breakthrough point in terms of a female horror filmmaker gaining deserved recognition for creating a genuinely scary horror film. Its completely refreshing that The Babadook has achieved a wider cinematic release, its a very brave film in many ways and while it may lead you to believe its a simplistic haunting film its far more than just that. On the surface seeing The Babadook in the cinema might mislead audiences into thinking their getting another Insidious or Annabelle. But The Babadook defies expectation in a hard-hitting way, it takes it time to develop the characters, keeps the audience invested throughout and takes an intelligent approach to the ‘supernatural’ sub-genre. Even its title is unique, setting it apart from everything else within the genre.

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Centering on a widowed single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) struggling to bring up her agitated six year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), The Babadook essentially is a two hander depicting a family dealing with the turmoil of grief. In an outstanding performance Essie Davis portrays Amelia as a woman who’s had her whole life ripped apart following her husband’s death in a horrific accident which took place on the night Samuel was born. She’s distant from those around her and fails to discipline a mischievous Samuel who on the outset appears to be quite a disturbed child, playing with dangerous weapons as well as an unhealthy obsession with death. The relationship between mother and son is grimly realistic viewing and highly compelling. While reading a bed time story one night Amelia allows Samuel to choose a book and so they begin to read an obscurely drawn and cryptic story named ‘Mister Babadook’.  As Amelia reads to Samuel the book becomes gradually more sinister as the pages turn. Both mother and son are certainly unsettled, cleverly emphasizing that parents can be afraid of things just as much as children. As the film unfolds and Amelia and Samuel’s obsession deepens, it leaves us to wonder who is this mysterious Babadook? and what does he want? and where did this horrible, horrible book come from?

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Jennifer Kent’s characters are written authentically. Amelia is portrayed as a broken woman, there’s nothing glamorous about her in hows she’s constructed. She’s clearly vulnerable, beaten down by life and just feels very real. Noah Wiseman for a young actor plays Samuel powerfully, the notion of him being this troubled young boy comes across believably. A strong dynamic is created between the two leads.

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The purpose of this review is not to reveal too much as its a film that needs to be viewed completely blind in order to experience its full impact. There are several spoilers online as fans and film reviewers alike are developing their own theories regarding the film’s true meaning and interpretations of the ending. It unexpectedly gets under the skin and is incredibly powerful in terms of its story, portrayals and direction. For me, its not the idea of The Babadook itself that gets under my skin and has kept me awake late at night thinking about it, its actually the gut-wrenching emotional impact the film delivers and its bleakness in terms of its tone. Dealing with hard-hitting subjects such as mental illness and grief is magnificently depicted and is the true horror of the piece. There’s also some beautiful homages to the imagery from the silent film era that compliments its creepy mood. Packed with high octane creepy moments and a disturbing concept at play, The Babadook wholeheartedly deserves every ounce of adoration its received and will continue to receive. It will frighten you in a unique and different way.

Sincerely tremendous, believe the hype, The Babadook is a must-see film of 2014!

Available in selected theatres and On Demandthebabadook.com

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.