Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell
For a true horror buff, there are few greater thrills than a highly touted movie that catches the viewer completely off guard for reasons unsuspected, yet still delivers on the hype it garnered prior to release. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is that film. On first glance it looks like a promising little creep-out with a cool creature thrown in the mix, but the truth is, it’s so, so much more. Is The Babadook a gnarly creature? Sure. Is he the true crux of the terror? Absolutely not. That falls on the shoulders of lead character, Amelia, whom we watch spiral into complete and utter madness as the story unfolds. It’s a glorious tale that resonates long after viewing, and does what so few manage these days, it actually terrifies. That’s right, The Babadook is a truly scary flick, no two ways about it.
Let’s bring you up to speed on the idea of the film. Amelia is a single mother raising a child with an overactive imagination and a penchant for creating nifty weapons out of household goods. Her boy, Samuel, is having heaps of problems at school, and it’s throwing off the rhythm of life for Amelia, who has her own set of internal wars in motion. She’s single because her husband, Samuel’s father, was killed in a car accident seven years prior while driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to their son. She’s since been plagued with guilt, frustration, extreme loneliness and clinical depression. It hasn’t been an easy run for her, but her troubles escalate the moment she picks up The Babadook book and reads the gruesome tale to Samuel. You can’t get rid of The Babadook, the book warns, and it’s damn accurate in its message.
Amelia begins to be haunted by nightmares and visions of this mythical creature. And before we know it, the woman’s entire personality has shifted. She transforms in radical fashion, from an easy-speaking, generally pleasant even if worn down mother to a furious, raging beast. The difference is night and day, and nothing is lost on Samuel, who soon finds himself fighting a shell of his own mother for a bid to keep his heart beating.
Talk about a profoundly grim flick… The Babadook is shocking in so many moments that is frazzles the nerves. Once the hour mark passes, the terror is unrelenting, with Kent delivering one horrifying sequence after another. The look, the atmosphere, the performances and the script are all amazing. The twist ending is a certified keeper and the dark impressions the pic leaves on the mind is damn impressive. I caught this one at about 1 am on a night the wife and kids had packed up and headed for Grandma’s place, and I’m not embarrassed in the least bit to admit that it had me turning on unnecessary house lights. Not only am I not embarrassed to admit that, I’m excited as all hell to admit that. The one thing we horror hounds are always hoping for is a film that somehow manages to jar our desensitized minds. Those pics rarely come around, but when they do, we rejoice, and we cling to the fear that those movies induce like our childhood teddy bears. The Babadook will have you squeezing away, hoping to hang on to that sensation of terror for a long time.
Another stellar 2014 offering, The Babadook is genius and horrific. It’s memorable for the right reasons, and features some career defining performances. Essie Davis is a true star with a range that most would sell their souls for, and young Noah Wiseman can be as great as he chooses to. His future is his own, but should he opt to really dedicate himself to this business, he’ll be a huge star. This is about as close to a perfect horror flick that you’ll find, and there can be no debating its position as a top notch standout in 2014, a year that’s already seen a hefty number of riveting indie and foreign films released.