The Babadook – An artistic accomplishment in genuinely scary horror
Written and directed by: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Noah Wiseman, Essie Davis, and Daniel Henshall
Amelia (Davis) is a broken woman. She lost her husband in a tragic car accident on the way to the hospital to have her son, and she has never been able to cope with the loss. She works a tiring job as a caregiver at a nursing home, and she returns home every night to a son who has an overactive imagination, makes weapons out of household items, and is a constant reminder of her lost love. She is barely hanging on, and then one day her son Samuel (Wiseman) picks out a book for her to read to him before bed. The book is called “The Babadook”. It is full of menacing lines like “Weather it’s in a word, or in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”, and before long they are both hearing ominous sounds at night. It gets much, much worse from there.
Sam is intensely aware that they are both in danger, but Amelia being so consumed by her grief and exhaustion, reprimands the boy and ignores his warnings. Truth be told, she has a kind of love hate relationship with her son. At times there is a tenderness between them as seen when she reads him books to help him fall asleep every night only to share her own bed with him when he wakes up. But, increasingly she seems to see him as the root of all of her problems and has an internal tug of war with her feelings towards him.
Meanwhile the menacing, and creepy as hell Babadook visits more and more often and becomes much more aggressive. Kent does shows amazing restrain in not ever giving us a full on look at her terrifying boogeyman. Instead he lurks in shadows, floats from wall to ceiling, and even latches on to the top of Amelia’s car only to disappear. The houses creeks and shadows play an equally important part in the gruesome tone of the film.
There is an almost beautiful balance in the portrayal of the Babadook. On one hand it seems as though he is nothing more than the manifestation of the grief that the mother and son share, and the poisonous depression that looms in their home. On the other hand, he appears to be a supernatural entity who feeds off of the sadness of his victims. Kent delicately balances these two themes, and the result is an absolute success in the art of true horror cinema.
One of the most amazing things about Kent’s movie is that most of the funds were raised on Kickstarter. Yes, you heard right. One of the best horro films of the last decade is a low budget, Australian, indie film. That, to me, is wonderful news as big budget, male dominated, Hollywood horror has been utter crap in recent years. It will be fun to see how Kent tackles measuring up to her debut with her next film. For now though, we have this impressive accomplishment to enjoy.