Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"The Babadook" by by Jed Kurzel

The Australian horror film "The Babadook" (dir. Jennifer Kent) is a feast for eyes and ears. The whole team involved in shaping the sound of the film does great work here; Frank Lipson's sound design is excellent and does well in avoiding stock horror effects that even good horror movies too often can't seem to avoid; the placement of music, original and otherwise, is perfect, and Jed Kurzel's score is superb. The music remains on the periphery for most of the film and sets us ill at ease while remaining eerily beautiful and also quite melodic; a quality that is often missing from modern day horror. Kurzel's sound sculptures tend to hang in the center of the stereo field while we're surrounded by unsettling yet gorgeous chimes and bells and music boxes in long reverbs.

The film itself is abundant with fresh ideas. Like any good horror movie, it is about much more than monsters. As with the score, it avoids stale gimmicks and also injects some ideas we don't see very often in modern day horror: one particularly astonishing scene features the sleep deprived lead character Amelia (very well played by Essie Davis) having a hallucination in which she sees on her TV a sequence of antique films in the style of Méliès' "La Voyage Dans La Lune" or the dream sequence from Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" in which our monster (the Babadook) appears and reappears.  Later another TV sequence shows a newscast in which Amelia eerily leers out of a window in the background, perhaps the best shot in the film. The original music that lies under the former augments it perfectly with an ambient soundscape without ever overdoing it. A very well made film with one of the best scores I've heard all year.

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