With a funny sounding name, The Babadook is anything but. It is a slow build without a true reveal of the villain so methodically alluded to from start to horrific finish. This non-reveal has understandably angered many who have seen it, but if you know the type of horror film this is what you’ll find is a true gem that really needs to be experienced. The cast, specifically the lead actress Essie Davis, give utterly haunting performances. Noah Wiseman, who plays the son and ultimately tormented little boy, does exactly what the character demands. His character is written to be frustrating and a complete pain in the ass. You’re supposed to hate him only to find the truth is not what it seems. His seemingly unstable state of mind is a fear fueled adolescent mind that’s trying to comprehend what is real and who he can trust. The people that seem good may be the ones to fear the most, and even that truth could change at any moment. Topsy-turvy doesn’t begin to describe the insanity this film contains.
I mentioned Essie Davis already but I am bringing her up again for one simple reason… she is phenomenal! She is absolutely perfect for this role. Her physicality alone evokes such eerie and unsettling moments of sheer terror that makes you feel as if she could reach out and touch you. Even her most subtle moments, whether it’s a twitch or a prolonged stare, she is undeniably captivating. She portrays a frazzled and overwhelmed mother who is on the brink of a mental breakdown, doing everything she can to keep it together. In Davis’ hands this character is ultimately both wicked and sympathetic. She deals with a mentally disturbed child whose delusion is becoming dangerous. The entire film both actors rely on one another and with such strong performances the film is turned into something far more memorable than just a run of the mill thriller.
I have found that horror films that connect with me the most rely not on over stimulation through visuals, but rather on my own imagination. With The Babadook the director realizes that what’s in the audience’s minds is far more disquieting and frightening than anything put on the screen. A full view of the antagonist never happens. Images are prominent creating an idea of what he or it might look like, but there’s never a complete shot. This creates unease and an imagination running wild adds something not possible otherwise. It builds slowly and hits a climax that is completely unexpected and highly entertaining. This is what horror and thrillers and even dramas should strive for.
Amelia is a single mother with more on her plate than she can handle and things only seem to be getting worse. Her young boy, Samuel, is what someone kind would call unique. The truth is the death of his father has caused Samuel to turn inward causing a lack of social skills. He doesn’t comprehend normal behavior and he doesn’t understand boundaries. Constantly clinging to his mother and always testing her patience it’s almost as if she must remind herself everyday why she deals with him. It would seem that out of their loss Samuel has created a new being of sorts based on a character in a book. Mr. Babadook, as he’s called in the book, has scarily come to life according to Samuel. As each day passes Samuel’s delusions become more dangerous. What Samuel has feared and has repeatedly warned his mother of is beginning to come true despite her understandable disbelief. This monster from the depths of her son’s nightmares couldn’t possibly be real, could it?
This is a terrifying tale of monsters and shadows and nightmares, but more than this it’s a story of loss and the emptiness that loss has on those left behind. It’s a very hard look at something so profoundly debilitating that to press on seems impossible and unreasonable. How does the mother deal with the loss of her husband and remain strong in the face of her only child? Especially when this particular child is suffering from something she has no means of comprehending? More than the horrors of beasts it’s the horrors of real life and the aftermath. The Babadook is one of the best horror films of the year and certainly the most original. With charismatic performances and a beautifully written script, this is one not to miss. I highly recommend giving this a chance and keep an open mind if and when you do. This is not the typical jump scare, bore fest that is overtaking modern horror and for this reason alone it is worth your time.
Unrated: Features moments of strong language and disturbing scenes of violence involving a child
Run Time: 93 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Tim Purcell
Directed By: Jennifer Kent
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
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