The Babadook (2014)
As you probably know, I’m always after a horror film that can succeed in giving me the (pardon my French) ‘heebee-jeebees’ – but unfortunately they’re few and far between. So far this year (if you’ve been reading my reviews, and I know you haven’t) I’ve only encountered one such film this year, and even then it wasn’t great.
The worst of them all was the Australian Wolf Creek 2, a blatant cash in on its enjoyable predecessor – so it was with a certain level of scepticism that I got my hands on the highly-praised Australian film The Babadook.
It’s the story of a mother and child, living with the memory of the deceased father, who died the day Samuel was born. Noah Wiseman deserves the praise he has received for his role at such a young age – it’s a cliché-less, perfect delivery of a child who just wants to love and look after his tortured mum, too young to understand the complexities of grief – and in that regard Essie Davis must also be given a LOT of credit for the portrayal of the mum struggling on so many fronts and gradually falling to pieces. That one scene in the bath is, despite its relative simplicity, just as creepy as scenes that rely on a little bit more. They’re both confronting, superb performances that compliment each other well. You begin to feel both sorry for and entirely frustrated by the child, a feeling that I’m sure is intentionally invoked. In a way it’s similar to the Danny/Jack relationship in The Shining, but it seems to resonate far more. Whether that’s because of the accents or the absence of Shelly Duval I just don’t know.
Then there’s the suspense. What some in this instant gratification age might see as a ‘slow’ build up is perfect, and while there are incidents that certainly shock, the first night that we see what the Babadook is truly sends a shiver up the spine. And the knocking! Ahh! There is violence, and terror, but it’s as much psychological as it is physical or at the behest of some ‘monster’.
It’s a film that deserves seeing, so I won’t spoil the ending. What surprised me about this film was that when it was all over it had only been just over 90 minutes. There’s more storytelling and character development in this film than many from the same genre that take an extra 30 or 60 minutes. It’s a well-executed story on the back of an interesting premise and some great performances. The ending is just that, an ending, and you can’t help but feel there’s a heavy level of symbolism that the final scenes convey – but that’s the case throughout the whole movie. If you want cheap shocks and horror, this might not be for you, but if you want something more, check it out. 8/10
The Mule (2014)
The drug mule story has been done a fair amount in Australian television, and while the mini-series Schapelle did nothing for me, the hilarious Angus Sampson and the infallible Hugo Weaving were enough to entice me into giving The Mule a watch.
Sampson plays Ray, a pretty simple bloke who is obviously keen to make everyone happy, whether it’s his mates or his mum. He lacks the confidence to stand up for himself and gets roped in to smuggling some narcotics back from a footy trip in Thailand, yadda yadda yadda.
The opening scenes at home and in Thailand are necessary, of course, but are dealt with quickly – as they should be. Some people might expect a more protracted introduction but that’s not what separates this story from the countless other drug mule tales.
Detained on suspicion of drug possession, Sampson is put up in a hotel room, cut off from the outside world, with only the police, including the incredibly arrogant but entertaining Croft (Weaving) and time to keep him company while everyone waits for him to shit.
The idea of a film about a bunch of people sitting around a hotel room waiting for a simpleton to shit might not sound like the most enticing premise, but it builds up brilliant levels of suspense which (well, in my case) leave you hoping beyond hope that he can hold out the entire duration, while asking yourself the same question (could I go 10 or more days without taking a shit?) and realising the answer is ‘probably not’.
The film doesn’t blatantly tell you that you should be rooting for Ray, and never professes his innocence – yet you can’t help but cheer him on as his somewhat disgusting quest comes to a somewhat disgusting climax. While Weaving commands his screen time he never steals the show from Sampson’s portrayal. You don’t feel sorry for him, but its an enjoyable character transformation to watch, from being a pushover to standing up for himself, and it’s a solid performance considering there isn’t that much dialogue for a protagonist.
There is plenty of humour in the tale, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a comedy. A black comedy? Perhaps a brown comedy…
It might be difficult to stomach in parts, but you could say the same thing about ingesting heroin. A great Australian film 8/10
The Equalizer (2014)
When I saw that this film was coming out a couple of weeks ago, I thought “Denzel kicking ass? I should watch Man on Fire!” – so I did, and I reviewed it right here – I’m pretty sure I gave it a good rating too.
In the review I fawn over ultra-violent Denzel as my favourite Denzel, and analyse a film about a tortured main character who has elite skills but keeps them on the down-low, trying to deal with his own personal demons. Young girl gets kidnapped and Denzel goes crazy, brings back all his old skills out of nowhere, kills all the bad guys and saves the daughter of his boss.
While The Equalizer filled me with the desire to watch Man on Fire, I didn’t realize it was going to be THE EXACT SAME FUCKING FILM! THEY SHOULD HAVE JUST CALLED IT MAN ON FIRE 2!
Instead of a tortured bodyguard Denzel plays a tortured old man who goes into a café every night. Instead of the adorable Dakota Fanning trying to bring out the best in him it’s a Russian prostitute played by Chloe Moretz. He talks to her a few times and goes for a walk with her once. When he discovers that (oh my god) her pimp people are violent, and they put her in the hospital because she was wasting time with Washington instead of earning them money, (so technically his fault – OK so not really but still) he goes on a killing spree. Blah blah blah. At least in Man on Fire it was his JOB to protect the kid. Sigh.
In this case, the sequel (whether intentional or not), is far inferior to the original. Go and watch Man on Fire 5/10