I know I don’t usually do back-to-back reviews, but this time around is an exception. Especially since this film is so damn good. It’s actually won a couple of awards and is nominated for plenty more, so I think it’s especially deserving of a review.
The Babadook follows Essie Davis as Amelia, a widow who refuses to confront her own grief over the death of her husband or the fact that her young son Samuel (played with convincing skill by Noah Wiseman), while brilliant enough to do advanced magic tricks and build weapons, has some behavioral problems (as evidenced by the weapons). One day Samuel finds a pop-up book entitled Mister Babadook, about a boogeyman-like creature whose name is derived from the onomatopoeia of two quick raps and three steady knocks. Anyone who sees it will be menaced by it until it kills them. Thus starts a terrifying saga in which both characters toe the line between reality, insanity and a world only barely glimpsed by man.
Jenifer Kent does an excellent job as a first time writer and director on a very small budget, easily weaving together a story where the audience can’t tell if the Babadook is real or a shared psychosis (or folie a deux for those poetic types) between mother and son. Throughout the film you’ll see evidence that it could be either or both (which is what I’m going with). Davis is wonderful, portraying a mother with heavy baggage who is trying to deal with what life has dealt her in the best way possible and suffering from it as well, while young Wiseman should get an award for how well he played such a psychologically demanding role. The atmosphere is great, the exploration of parenthood under rough circumstances is poignant, and the storytelling was executed well. I had to put my hands over my eyes several times because it was so scary.
I hope more people discover The Babadook, because it is a really awesome horror film that reminds one of the original Night of the Living Dead in its power to terrify and to tell a story worthy of analysis. All in all, I’m giving this film a 4.5 out of 5. I’m definitely hoping for more films from Ms. Kent, especially if they’re as terrifying as The Babadook was. And if there’s a copy of that picture book, I would like one.
Not recommended for anyone with a pet (especially a dog) or small children. Or both.