‘If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook’
Ok – well that’s a frightening sentence. What the hell ever happened to harmless children’s tales like The Cat In The Hat? Welcome to the world of the Australian horror film The Babadook, and welcome to this year’s version of The Conjuring.
The Babadook is one of those horror movies that is best watched without viewing the trailer beforehand. The less you know about it, the better. And during this review, I’ll do my best to not spoil much. I can’t promise anything though, especially since Mister Babadook pretty much controls me now. Yeah, he can be a real sonofabitch.
This crafty little Australian horror addition revolves around Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow and mother of a behavioral challenged boy named Samuel (Noah Wiseman). From the intro, it’s implied that Amelia’s husband died in a car accident and for the last 7 or so years that he’s been gone, she’s fallen into a state of deep depression. Trying to hold it together for Samuel, he tests her patience as he acts up in school and makes weapons to fight off imaginary monsters while practicing the craft of being a magician.
One night Amelia asks Samuel to get a book off the shelf to read to him before bed. He picks one called ‘Mister Babadook’. Good choice, except Amelia doesn’t know where it came from and upon reading it to Samuel, she gets disturbed by the dark rhyming storyline and creepy pop-up visuals. Samuel becomes obsessed with ‘The Babadook’ character from the book, constantly saying “You can’t get rid of The Babadook….” Strange occurrences happen, Samuel pushes a girl out a of treehouse, and Amelia begins to question her sanity – all after reading the ‘Mister Babadook’ book.
Convinced that the book is bad news, Amelia tears it up and tries to burn it. The only problem is that it shows up on her doorstep intact, the pages taped back together, and new content has been written. Is ‘The Babadook’ for real? Is it all in Amelia’s mind? Is this kid playing her son that annoying in real life?
The reason I liken The Babadook to The Conjuring is because it’s smart horror. That’s rare nowadays, so cherish it while it’s in front of you. There aren’t a lot of cheap thrills to be found here, and director Jennifer Kent does a great job of setting up the scenes and sound design to put you in an unnerving mood. I love when a horror film drops the music out of a scene completely by the way, and that happens here a few times to intensify the moment.
Speaking of intense, a standing ovation goes to the performance of Essie Davis. She nails it, and you feel every emotion she puts forth. The pain she’s gone through after her husband died is believable, as is her downward spiral that takes place at the hands of ‘The Babadook’. Kudos to Noah Wiseman too in his role of Samuel. If the job was to create a super annoying kid who you would scream at and mimic Jack Torrance from The Shining towards, then you knocked it out of the park, little buddy.
My only real problem with The Babadook was that it telegraphed a few moments too much. Nothing really ended up shocking me or twisting my head around, but that doesn’t take away at all from the overall effort put forth in every aspect of the movie. It requires a second look for sure, as I’m sure you’ll catch things that will make more sense with a follow up viewing. Creepy, intelligent, unsettling, and overall pretty damn original – The Babadook is the movie with a couple months left in the year that’s at the top of the horror heap for 2014.
(4 1/2 out of 5)
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