January 8, 2015 The Babadook (Movie Review)
The Babadook is the much talked about Psychological Thriller that was written and directed by Jennifer Kent. As Kent’s first full-length directorial debut, The Babadook comes to audiences from South Australia and was shot on a two million dollar budget. Initially released on January 17th, 2014 at Sundance, it opened in the USA the weekend of November 28th through IFC Midnight. Director of 1973 Horror classic The Exorcist, William Friedkin, stated that The Babadook was the most terrifying film he had ever seen, so the hype surrounding this film has been second to none. So the question stands, does this film live up to its hype?
The film centers on a middle-aged mother named Amelia (Essie Davis: The Matrix Reloaded 2003, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole 2010) and her seven year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman: The Gift 2013). It is almost immediately apparent that Amelia has a very boring and stress-filled life, as it is written on her face through her somber expression and her lost look through tired, wrinkled eyes. Samuel is a unique child and he has, as most children do, an overactive imagination. He is convinced that there is a monster in the house and becomes obsessed with it, so much so that he starts to build weapons and traps to protect himself against it.
Amelia reads a bedtime story to Samuel every night, and when she says that it is his turn to pick a book off of the self he brings back one which Amelia has never seen before and has no idea where it came from. The book is called Mister Babadook and this is the only writing on the outside, front, or back. When she opens it she sees that it is a pop up book and that the drawings and imagery inside are very dark and sinister. The book explains how once The Babadook enters one’s home there is no getting rid of him. Simply frightened by the story, Samuel’s mother decides to put the book away before even concluding it. Even though the book was not finished by Amelia, it is still remembered by Samuel, who is now convinced The Babadook is in his house. Amelia herself starts to have an obsession with the book as well and starts to see bizarre things happen in the night. Enticed to go back to reading the story, she finds it too much to stand and tries to dispose of it. Samuel, at this point, is unable to manage his fear of the monster and starts to act out, which gets him in serious trouble, while what little sanity that Amelia was clinging to starts to slip. Is this woman simply unstable, or is there more than meets the eye? Later in the film, Amelia finds The Babadook book on her front door step put back together with the last few pages, which were once blank, now completed. Is the Babadook real or is it in the imagination of a mother that is on the edge of sanity?
The main problem with The Babadook is not in the film itself, but the misconceptions and hype surrounding it. The film is marketed like a Creature Feature or a Monster Film, so audiences go into it expecting to see the monster a lot. This film is in fact not a typical Horror film of today, and that is what makes it so great. It does not fall victim to the jump-scare tactic that most Horror films do today. Sadly, most spectators who view a modern Horror film gauge the film’s effectiveness off of how many times they were startled by something popping out at them. Horror used to be about real fear; people losing their minds and doing horrendous things to their loved ones. That can be argued as the most terrifying Horror of all. The people one trusts most are the ones they are most vulnerable to.
The Babadook focuses primarily on the psychological aspect and is still able to frighten its audience, which is an enormous feat for cinema today. The mood and tension built is incredible particularly due to high quality cinematography and music. Davis’ portrayal of Amelia is nothing short of an Oscar winning performance as she fully embodies the broken mother who is doing anything to keep it together for her son. The film lives and dies off of the viewers belief in her. With that said, hype kills, especially in Horror genre. Viewers going into The Babadook expecting a dark Psychological Thriller like those of yesteryear will absolutely love this film. Regardless of one’s expectations, this is a must see for any Horror fan because, love it or hate it, The Badadook will become a classic. Time to turn off the cell phones and pay attention, this film requires undivided attention. CrypticRock gives The Badadook 5 out of 5 stars.