Film Review: ‘Babycall’


Pål Sletaune’s Norwegian horror/thriller Babycall (2011) may be one of the less-known of this week’s new releases, yet features the superb star of the original The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo film series and Ridley Scott’s eagerly-awaited Prometheus (2012) Noomi Rapace. It’s also a gripping story in it’s own right, and you’ll certainly be rewarded for tracking it down.

Single mother Anna (Rapace) has just moved with her son Anders (Vetle Qvenild Werring) to Oslo in order to escape her abusive husband. As a result of this abuse, Anna has become fear-ridden, paranoid and utterly convinced that she will lose her son, willing to do everything she can to protect him. After buying a baby monitor to listen continually to her son, she hears the cries of a child that is not her own – the first in a series of strange occurrences that suggest that Anna’s world is crumbling down around her.

Babycall‘s screenplay is extremely well-crafted, particularly in its gradual release of information, aided by the addition of a well-placed twist which consequently turns the dramatic screw even further. Such gradual revelations make for a remarkably gripping narrative, expertly exploring the subject of abuse through a horror/thriller framework, with a haunting quality that leaves the viewer pondering its content long after it’s finished.

Sletaune thankfully avoids typical thriller and horror trappings, establishing the film’s tense and suspenseful tone through a number of strong central performances and engaging dialogue. Notably, almost all of the most affecting moments are shot in daylight, and are all the more forceful for it. Add to this a strong focus on the concept of voyeurism, shown through photography and sound equipment, and you have a real, tangible sense of apprehension throughout.

Rapace’s performance is of the highest calibre, demonstrating her dexterity as an actress and suggesting that she may well break free of the Lisbeth Salander mold. Rapace captures the sheer terror and psychological imbalance her character intrinsically feels, with her performance well-supported by turns from Kristoffer Joner as close friend Helge and young talent Vetle Qvenild Werring, who plays Anna’s son Anders.

Sletaune’s Babycall is an undeniably high quality Scandinavian psychological thriller which captivates the mind through tremendous performances and an excellent screenplay. Tomas Alfredson’s eerie, yet touching Let the Right One In (2008) may have just found a worthy successor.

Joe Walsh