“The terror of The Babadook starts innocently, with a children’s book, though it will grow to possess you.”
Every since I saw 2009’s Triangle, I knew that Australia was and up-and-comer as far as interesting and innovative horror goes, though Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook certifies their arrival.
It’s a pretty impressive movie, because–unlike many of its brethren, domestic or otherwise–it weaves its spell gradually, taking its time to introduce us to its main characters, so that what they feel, be it joy or terror, you do as well.
We soon meet Amelia (Essie Davis), who’s been having a difficult time since the death of her husband. Her work at a nursing home leaves her numb while her son, Robbie (Noah Wiseman) is an imaginative, rambunctious boy who’s misbehavior has her at wits’ end.
Amelia is doing her damnedest to keep mind and soul together, with very little in the way of support; in some instances due to her son’s behavior.
One day Robbie finds a book, Mister Babadook, that neither he nor his mother was aware of owning. He finds the book terrifying, though what’s more interesting is that despite this, Amelia continues to read to him.
The book is creepy in and of itself.
It appears that she does so because she knows it hurts Robbie, and on some level blames him for her husband dying.
Eventually she destroys the book, only to find it on her doorstep a few days later. She reads it again, and notices that it goes even further into lurid detail about what happens when you deny the Babadook.
Which is part of the brilliance of the movie: You never quite know if what’s happening to her is real in the sense that there is indeed a storybook shadow-monster stalking her and her son, or just a woman snapping under stress.
What also makes the movie remarkable is that that the acting is top-notch. It would be easy to descend into theatricality in the role of Amelia, but Essie Davis manages to walk a tightrope between lucidity and mania, while remaining believable. And for a young actor, Noah Wiseman does well with the part–and considering that I can’t stand most child actors, that’s saying something.
Amelia, primarily because of her son’s behavior, has alienated everyone that she knows, which means that she has no one to turn to when things become…weird.
The Babadook is a great movie that is gore-less and (virtually) bloodless, yet manages to be one of the best horror movies of the year.
The Babadook is on Netflix.