Capsule Review: The Babadook, Mockingjay: Part 1

Both a picture of terror born out of personal grief and political rebellion, The Babadook and Mockingjay: Part 1 (respectively) are female-focused and genre-based films that are thematically powerful in challenging the vulnerabilities of the leads bounded by their overbearing environment. The outcome doesn’t dissolve into a serene ending as the struggle against the internal and external demons remain existent. But as these female protagonists show, the change in attitude towards these forces flicks the switch to resilience. Not to undermine the frightening black creature and the foreboding white roses, The Babadook and Mockingjay: Part 1 open the floor to a thought-provoking discussion on the seeds of general fear and wrath; and the fruits are ripened fiction that more than tickles one’s imagination.

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THE BABADOOK

I personally tend to avoid this genre (simply because it’s not my favorite film type) but Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent breaks the spell of bloody and mindless horror through the humble abode of Amelia, her son Samuel, and the nightmarish book character haunting them. THE BABADOOK abandons the superficial gimmicks to instill fear; only to derive terror from the ambiguous perception of its lead characters that will make viewers clutch to their subconscious to decipher the truth behind the mysterious domesticity of man and monster. The hatted eponymous creature is simply distressing in ominous black (with white details making it lifelike) but the real horror originates from Amelia (Essie Davis) whose vulnerability as a grieving, depressed and detached mother makes her the more terrifying character and the perfect medium for the babadook’s unwelcome nuisances. Similar to the disturbing content of Samuel’s book, THE BABADOOK is to be read between the lines. The underlying horror (in the form of Amelia) is no less authentic because the taboo of an unloving mother is real, making the film a thought-provoking allegory on the horrors of motherhood. In a movie that questions its characters’ state of mind, THE BABADOOK successfully infuses the influence of grief and depression, thus effectively invading the psychological tone of the genre. The ending is consistent on its cautionary tale: the fictional monster is a metaphor of Amelia’s traumas that devour her sanity due to her refusal of moving on from the tragedy of seven years passed. The babadook locked yet placated in the basement is Amelia’s unresolved thoughts stowed in her subconscious which she doesn’t have to revisit unless necessary. Such thematic elements make THE BABADOOK a more clever, sympathetic and genuine horror film that best captures the true horrors of one’s wounded psychology.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

MOCKINGJAY: PART 1

The third installment of the highly successful The Hunger Games Series, the MOCKINGJAY: PART 1 broadens Panem’s cinematic world in a more politically inclined landscape that sees Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) stepping up her role as an icon of revolution post-Quarter Quell. The overall result is an unhurried yet confident establishment of events that implants the catalysts for the franchise’s explosive conclusion. The addition of veteran actors Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman strengthens the more complex and mature nature of the war between the districts and the Capitol that overshadows the teenage angst which initially sparked the rebellion. But the inner political dispute is also present as Katniss bargains with the key players of District 13 who merely sees her as a public image for their civil cause. Lawrence once again resonates in her vivid portrayal whose character growth is rooted in Katniss’ recognition of her role in the revolution and acceptance of the black wings of the mockingjay in her own volition. MOCKINGJAY: PART 1 is less visually stirring in the action department but it is the essential trough that tackles the consequences of unrest in fictional dystopia. While the stoic infrastructure and harrowing rubbles corroborate the gloomy environment onscreen, additional merit goes to the film’s official soundtrack that morphs the eloquence of civil and political disorder with futuristic soundscapes courtesy of album curator Lorde, particularly the rebellious introspection of Yellow Flicker Beat. Overall, The Hunger Games Series is a rare young adult adaptation that proved to be a standalone material from the book and while MOCKINGJAY: PART 1 will find readers more tolerant in terms of the narrative, it’s a remarkable testament on how the film has grown — not by its commercial returns but on how it embraces serious subject matters that are treated as equally important as the inner conflicts of its prized heroine.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

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