Capsule reviews for Nov. 28

The Babadook

This Australian thriller is refreshing because it smartly generates its chills from true psychological horrors rather than jump scares or technical gimmicks. It follows a young widow (Essie Davis) still trying to cope with her husband’s death along with her 6-year-old son (Noah Wiseman), whose rambunctious behavior turns even more erratic after he becomes convinced that there’s an unseen monster preparing to attack them. Gradually that suspicion tears apart their lives. Rookie director Jennifer Kent expanded her short film into a feature that’s both unsettling and suspenseful as it generally probes relatable fear and paranoia for its most frightening moments instead of ghosts or gore. (Not rated, 93 minutes).


Before I Disappear

The Oscar-winning short film Curfew is given a lethargic feature treatment by director Shawn Christensen, who also stars as Richie, a janitor on the brink of suicide when he gets a call from his estranged sister (Emmy Rossum), desperate for a babysitter for her precocious daughter (Fatima Ptacek) to get out of a jam. Thus begins an overnight journey of bonding and redemption through seedy bowling alleys and nightclubs. Christensen fares best as a director, where he mixes some atmospheric visuals with an eclectic soundtrack. But his self-indulgent screenplay doesn’t commit to its quirky deadpan humor and never generates enough narrative momentum to warrant feature expansion. (Not rated, 98 minutes).


Remote Area Medical

The hot-button topic of American health-care reform provides a sobering backdrop to this otherwise straightforward documentary about the titular organization, which travels the world with free clinics to serve those who can’t afford insurance. Specifically, the film focuses on a three-day event in Bristol, Tenn., as it follows both the benevolent volunteer medical personnel and the desperate patients whose socioeconomic despair has led to a neglect in their care. Their stories are typically heartbreaking, and while directors Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman deliberately avoid taking an overt stance, they shape the film in a way that makes their position clear, and generally persuasive as well. (Not rated, 80 minutes).