The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent, 2014) – Single mother Amelia struggles to raise her son, as his constant fear of a book’s monster begins to take its toll.
The Babadook peers into the dark corners of motherhood in the clever and unnerving guise of a literal demon.
Seven years after her husband’s death, single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) is struggling to cope with her troubled son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Things worsen when a mysterious storybook surfaces on their shelf, its menacing words provoking Samuel to react in fear and violence.
Isolation amplifies unease in the claustrophobic nightmare that threatens the vulnerable pair. What began as a child’s figment of imagination, then seemingly materialises into the palpable presence of a demonic incarnate.
Homed in a genuinely creepy (and very quotable) pop-up book, The Babadook chills as its rhymes grow more vicious with every page turned. The book’s heightening peril runs in parallels with the aggravating emotional strain on Amelia, who finds it harder to discipline her son each day.
Annabelle (dir. John R. Leonetti, 2014) – Vintage doll collector Mia suspects something amiss in her home.
Lacking in originality, Annabelle is an unnecessary spin-off that treads ever so safely on a conventional hauntings origin story.
From the director who brought you the sequels of The Butterfly Effect and Mortal Kombat you never asked for. Here comes the prequel of The Conjuring that no one had ever asked for either, Annabelle.
Killer doll films seldom have an original story to tell. Spare the genre’s godfather Child’s Play and cult classic Demonic Toys, which made their debut way before their subpar imitators. Not that movie-goers mind.
The silent haunter Annabelle was bound to have her own series sooner or later, having made a memorable entrance in The Conjuring. Not many however could have predicted that ‘sooner’ was just short of a single year.
Annabelle has her work cut out for her. As a humanoid plaything, it already possesses a natural unsettling presence in the dark. If only horror filmmakers had not exploited their darting eyes and sentient smile to death. Predictability hence makes for few decent scares.
The ones that did work owe credit to the coincidentally named Annabelle Wallis, whose sympathetic lead performancesingle-handedly anchors the film with credibility. Her leading woman is with child, leading to attempts in replicating thrills from Rosemary’s Baby. There is no doubt who did better.
Rounding up the yawnfest are uninspired stereotypes. We have satanic cultists, the vulnerable infant, the doubtful husband and the neighbour who knows things. Oh, how could we ever forget the quintessential priest?
In the already-inundated pool of demonic possession tales, this feels like a redundant entry. Not one scene stood out in the spin-off that is heavily reliant on its obvious influences.
Taking no risks to set itself apart, Annabelle plays it all too safe. Despite notable cinematography responsible for a suspenseful albeit thin atmosphere, the page-by-page recreation of over-used tropes quickly gets old.
As the seconds pass, it becomes clear that sometimes, less is more. Why not re-watch The Conjuring for those brief yet effective minutes of Annabelle’s murderous stares, with a much better story to boot?
Deliver Us From Evil (dir. Scott Derrickson, 2014) – Officer Ralph Sarchie finds the answers behind the erratic crimes from an unconventional priest.
Replicating the genre’s best (including his own), Scott Derrickson presents a well-structured supernatural entry that lacks distinction, save for a bizarre incrimination of classic rock jams that opens doors to ridicule.
“You haven’t seen true evil,” the trailer boasts. But if you have seen one on film, you have seen it all. From grisly self-mutilation to scratching floorboards, Deliver Us From Evil promises nothing outstanding in the overcrowded genre of exorcism. Chills remain in the distant past of Linda Blair’s spider-walking contortions and pea soup spew.
The haunting notably traces back to the sands of Iraq, where Pazuzu of The Exorcist fame had first laid dormant. Strange events soon follow in the city of New York as officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) hits a dead end in his investigation. He meets Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez), who believes that the key may be a greater evil than what man can do.
The Conjuring (dir. James Wan, 2013) – Threatened by a dark presence, The Perrons seek help from paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who find themselves facing their most menacing case yet.
In his latest scare design, director James Wan nails tension with effective precision as horror fans echo in unison, “Please don’t leave us.”
The Warrens came, they saw, they kicked its ass – or at least that is what they claim. No matter whether you believe in the stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, there is no question that they would be fantastic material for any compelling horror film.
Director James Wan turns the potential into a barrage of some earnest scares with The Conjuring, his second venture into the haunted house genre after Insidious, this time without his partner-in-crime Leigh Whannell.
They say the Supernatural fandom is mostly insane, sometimes creepy. They say that the overt obsession have quite regularly frightened both cast and crew. This is all true.
While it sounds unsettling, what it really means for the show is an undying viewership that has kept it going all these years. Such successful ratings are rare for a horror series, and credit is largely due to the charismatic Winchesters who make every second of the ghost-busting journey worthwhile.
It has been years, and the brothers have come far from where their father’s journal pointed to. Facing infinite demons both physical and their own, they have seen hunters kill without blinking and bloodthirsty demons act on good conscience.
The new season had been an equally intriguing one, with Lucifer hounding the brothers for souls and such. The finale slows down with Chuck’s chapter on the Impala, an honorary lead on the show. Endings are never easy and Kripke knows. He reaches straight for the heartstrings (how dare he), and brings us back to where it began – family – as past memories of the Winchesters flash on screen.
Great shows seldom grace the small screens, much less manage to stay off the cancellation danger radar. But Supernatural, like the Winchesters, is resilient and has survived for a good five years. The writing isn’t always the best, but it never fails to entertain, interest and touch the heart. Constant intrigue follows the strong plots that invoke thoughts on questions like how we define morality.
With tears and sacrifice, Swan Song would have been a perfect ending even if the series was never coming back. Though by god, we will miss it. From the endless movie references, hail to Led Zeppelin moments… And how can we forget its amazing catalogue of classic rock from Kansas to Warrant?
Of course, the fans are “always gonna bitch”. Somewhere, some time, we will always be hearing shouts of “Damn it, Kripke!” as the credits roll. But hell, with this satisfying finale, this might just be one of those quieter Thursday nights.