Of all the horror films of the last decade, not many have stood-out as really impressive. Audiences have grown accustom to jump-scares and accept that blood and gore makes for good horror. Stories have gotten weaker and true horror genius has been lost. There have been some instances recently of great psychological horror within Sinister and Oculus, but neither of those had the incredibly compelling familial aspect that this one does. It’s not outrageous to say that this film is one of the best horror films of the last decade, as it’s more than deserving of that praise.
Many, many years ago, Amelia (Essie Davis) lost her husband unexpectedly on the day of her son’s birthday. Since then, things have been a bit rough for her, trying to adapt without someone to help raise Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Now that Samuel is a bit older, he’s growing more curious about things and believes that there’s a monster which resides either in his closet, or underneath his bed.Worried that her son should have outgrown this fear, Amelia begins to wonder if something is wrong with her son.
As Samuel begins creating dangerous weapons which will “kill” the monster, Amelia is forced to remove him from school when his behavior becomes violent. When trying to calm him down one night, she reads him a story about “Mister Babadook, a fictional monster which slowly invades one’s home. From that point on, Amelia and Samuel begin noticing strange noises in their home and they start to lose sleep over fear of a possible “Babadook”. Samuel’s behavior only worsens and Amelia’s restlessness begins to take a toll on everyone involved in her life.What is the Babadook?
The Babadook is perhaps the greatest example of psychological and mental terror in years. An examination of grief, how humans deal with traumatic situations, and what makes us snap, The Babadook explores everyday emotions and impulses that inhabit all of us. The special effects are none too special, but they really don’t have to be. More frightening, are the images and scenarios playing out in your head that you only wish that you could dispel. Fueled by terrifically horrifying performances, this first feature for the director is one to keep an eye out for.
Essie Davis delivers a tremendously layered performance which emphasizes the film’s theme. Walking the line between concerned mother and an annoyed parent, Davis treats her on-screen son with a balance of love and hate. Her sleep-deprived actions draw into question her sanity and ability to adequately raise a child. Her grief-stricken character handles her life and the life of her son questionably and at times, she truly scared me. I was scared of her and for her.
Noah Wiseman’s character is insanely obnoxious at first, but his actions do make sense down the road. He’s living in questionable conditions and his family’s influence on his life makes him the way he is. Every shriek of his embeds itself within your brain and you almost feel his pain. His concerns are real, understandable, and have you fearing for his physical and emotional safety. His mental degradation and knack for overcoming situations makes him all the more compelling as a character.
Rather than relying on jump scares and gore galore, The Babadook frightens with that it implies and how it messes with your mind. The psychological terror which is inflicted on the audience manages to work its way into the audience’s mind, keeping us on the edge of our seats at all times. More than that, the film is nearly overrun with metaphors which accurately reflect the human condition. Writer/Director Jennifer Kent really does a fantastic job with her first feature film, showing tremendous promise with her ability to tell s story and execute it on-screen.
Pacing is the biggest issue that the Babadook suffers from, as it takes a while for things to really get going. There’s some exposition and set-up, but it all takes a while and leaves your curious as to when the scares begin. In terms of the scares, only a few of them are telegraphed and the film rarely relies on jump scares. The characters are never too likable, but you can certainly empathize with them. Given the scale of this film, the effects aren’t much to marvel at, but that’s made up for with the creepy sound effects.
The Babadook may be a smaller film, but it certainly makes a large impression, effortlessly solidifying itself as one of the year’s best horror films. It’s not all that scary in terms of blood, gore, and things that pop out at you, but it certainly messes with your mind and does a bang-up job of doing so. Davis and Wiseman do a great job with the material provided from first-time director Jennifer Kent and really bring the eerie tale of The Babadook to life. Just be prepared to lose some sleep and flinch when you hear certain noises.
The Babadook Trailer