2011 Running time: 96 Certificate: 15 Rating: 3

Synopsis

Psychological thriller from Norway starring original Dragon Tattoo girl Noomi Rapace as a mother living in fear of her abusive ex-husband. Still petrified after being relocated with her eight-year-old son, she sets up a baby monitor to allay her fears. But her peace of mind is shattered when the gadget begins to pick up sounds of another youngster in danger. But is it real or the work of her fevered imagination?

Director

  • Pål Sletaune

Cast

  • Noomi Rapace

  • Kristoffer Joner

  • Vetle Qvenild Werring

  • Maria Bock

Review

Though set in an unglamorous suburb of Oslo and starring the girl who first played Lisbeth Salander, Babycall has less in common with the current Nordic crime craze than the "J-horrors" of the Far East.

Plunging into similar psychological murkiness to Dark Water, One Missed Call, et al, it sees perpetually fearful Anna (Rapace) and her son Anders rehoused in a council flat unknown to her violent ex.

Still loath to let the boy out of her sight, Anna buys a Babycall system so that he can at least sleep in his own room.

At first the gizmo does the job, its two-way benefits allowing Anna to befriend the kindly assistant who sold it to her (Kristoffer Joner) while giving Anders the confidence to bring home a new friend.

But relief goes out of the window when the device suddenly starts to transmit distressing noises from somewhere else.

Already unnerved by occasional slips of the mind and the suspicious behaviour of both a downstairs neighbour and her creepy social worker, Anna fears her imagination may be getting the better of her. But it wouldn't be the first time.

Against everyday backdrops and with cool detachment, writer-director Pal Sletaune does a solid job of drawing the audience in. It's an intriguing set-up.

But the success of any psychological thriller hinges on how convincingly it blurs the boundaries between what's real and what's not.

In that, Sletaune is found wanting, short-changing viewers with a lack of consistency and providing no discernable clues as to which bits are which. In hindsight, much of it simply doesn't make sense.

This is no fault of the excellent Rapace who conveys palpable distraction and barely suppressed terror in every frame. But she can do nothing to change a final act that wants to have its cake and expects you to eat it

Ambiguous and enigmatic or muddled and unsatisfying? It's your call.