The Babadook Blu-ray Review
Don't let The Babadook in. Unless it's on Blu-ray of course.
The Babadook Film Review
Some of the scariest films of the last fifteen years have centred around mother-and-child relationships.The Others and The Orphanage both relied on the common tropes of creepy children, manic mothers and a cold blue colour palette. So it is with Australian filmThe Babadook, and like other intelligent horror-thrillers, the terror stems from the characters' psychological trauma rather than a blood-soaked white-knuckle approach. Internal horrors create an atmosphere of ambiguity and claustrophobia that defy a straightforward synopsis or explanation, but here goes. Widowed care worker Amelia lives in a dingy Australian town with her disturbed six-year old son Samuel, who resembles a consumptive and deranged young Mick Jagger.
His increasingly violent antisocial behaviour towards his cousin and schoolmates (including constructing and using weapons like dart throwers) is pushing dishevelled and sexually-frustrated Amelia to distraction. When a creepy red and black picture book called Mister Babadook mysteriously turns up in their house, she has to battle Samuel's insistence that the Babadook is a real monster who has taken up residence and is out to kill his mother. And soon she herself starts to get terrifying glimpses of the book's central character, setting off a Shining-like descent into paranoia and violence.
Blu-ray Picture QulaityThe Blu-ray of The Babadook retains the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and since it was shot digitally, the image appears pristine with plenty of fine detail. Despite these digital origins, the picture retains a lovely film-like quality and the transfer is excellent with no apparent banding, edge enhancement or other digital artefacts. The overall colour scheme is deliberately muted, almost mono-chromatic, in order to emphasis the drab and depressing nature of the protagonist’s life.
The picture is excellent, with deliberately muted colours and plenty of deep black shadows.
In fact the only time that a strong sense of colour enters the film is when the book Mister Babadook turns up, with its deep reds and blacks. The film uses shadows to great effective, with some scenes having an almost expressionist feel to them, with deep blacks and bright contrasts. There are frequently things lurking in the shadows and the transfer takes full advantage of the inherent dynamic range of Blu-ray whilst retaining all the important shadow details. This mono-chromatic approach to colour and expressionistic use of light and shadow is highly effective, just make sure you TV is setup correctly.
Blu-ray Sound QualityIf sound is fifty percent of a film then in the case of horror films it’s even more. Think about it, would a horror movie be remotely scary with the sound off? The answer is no and as any great horror film should, The Babadook takes full advantage of its sound design to unnerve and frighten the viewer. The DTS-MA Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack delivers a carefully structured sound mix that draws you in and creeps you out. The sound designers sensibly approach the film as if it was an ordinary drama initially, with dialogue clearly centred and subtle ambient effects in the surrounds.
The soundtrack effectively uses everyday noises to create a real sense of fear and unease.
However as the events become more intense, so the sounds are ramped up with plenty of loud knocks and bumps in the night. These sounds are always based on real noises but as they move around the room the effect is very unnerving. The sound mix also uses dynamic range to its full extent, so the film includes shots of an empty quiet house at night, which makes the sudden loud noises all the more effective. The Babadook uses its soundtrack very cleverly and for a small budget Australian horror film, the sound mix is excellent.
Blu-ray ExtrasThey Call Him Mister Babadook (35:00) - A making of documentary that covers the writing, casting, production and release of The Babadook. The documentary includes interviews with all the main participants but particularly writer/director Jennifer Kent, who discusses the film’s primary themes. She mentions that The Babadook was based upon her original short film Monster, which is also included as an extra on the disc.
Monster (10:47) - Writer/director Jennifer Kent’s early short that inspired The Babadook. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this black and white short explores many of the same themes of motherhood and depression but adds some comic twists to the scares.
Featurettes - Special Effects: The Stabbing Scene (2:53) - Showing how one character was stabbed by another in a key scene; There’s No Place Like Home: Creating The House (10:04) - Detailing the design and construction of the house in which much of the action takes place; and The Stunts (3:40) - Showing how a particular stunt in the film was achieved.
Trailers - Original Trailer (2:25), Alternate Trailer (0:32) and the UK Trailer (1:24)
Stills Gallery - Images from the book Mister Babadook and various theatrical posters
The Babadook Blu-ray VerdictThe Babadook was written and directed by Australian Jennifer Kent and is her feature film debut, although she had previously explored similar themes in her short film Monster. The director plays extensively with noises as an expression of ambiguity, whilst the screen sometimes shudders or warps as if reflecting Amelia's tics, twists and turns of behaviour and emotion. Overall the film is an impressive debut and a nightmare depiction of everything that can go wrong with family life - bereavement, difficult children, and fraught sibling relationships. With the possibility of a terrifying monster thrown in for good measure.
The Babadook is a genuinely unnerving film and the Blu-ray perfectly captures that feeling.
The Blu-ray disc release of The Babadook is excellent, with a pristine picture that perfectly replicates the film’s almost mono-chromatic colour scheme. The drab nature of the design emphasises the depressing nature of the mother's existence, whilst the almost expressionist use of light and shadow adds to the film’s unnerving effect. The images are supported by a clever sound mix that uses natural sounds and dynamic range to unsettle and scare the viewer. An interesting set of extras including the director’s original short film make this a great package and highly recommended.
You can buy The Babadook on Blu-ray here
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