For the most part, I try to stay away from modern-day horror films. It is not because I am afraid, or a wimp, but because they are normally considered bad. They always have all blood and guts, but not style. That being said, The Babadook is a rare exception, and a great film.
This gem from Australia is about a single mother named Amelia (Essie Davis). Her husband died in a car crash on the way to see his new-born baby at the hospital years ago. Now, 6 years later, her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is somewhat of an outcast at school (especially with his cousin Claire). One night, while reading to her son, Amelia lets him pick the book. He picks a red one, named “The Babadook”. Upon reading it, she realizes it is not the best pop up book in children’s literature. Samuel soon begins seeing the Babadook wherever he goes, and intends to protect his mother from it (he has his own “arsenal” of weapons that may make you think of “Home Alone”.) Whether the monster is real or not is something I will let you decide.
What I will tell you is this movie works on more than one level. Essie Davis is essential brilliant as the single mother. We can tell she is in need of help, and gets frustrated with her son, but at the core, she is still loving. As a fan of child actors who do well, I can say that Wiseman is sensational as Samuel (who is undoubtably the smartest character in the movie). He is at that state of going from cute to wise cracking, and Wiseman is up to the challenge.
One of the main things that makes or breaks a horror film is style. The stylistic approaches in The Babadook are just right (they don’t go over the top). The settings of the house are so colorless they are like the house hold of the Bate’s family. There were some echoes I felt of that great horror film The Night of the Hunter. The main reasoning for this is the film’s director, Jennifer Kent. This is her first film, and what a statement! I don’t know of many female horror directors. With this film, she makes it respectable again as a genre.
Parents, it is a horror film. I would say no one under high school. There is also one scene where Amelia uses a vibrator, but it is not too explicit nor does it last long.
Interesting point: this movie only runs at 93 minutes, but it seems to be longer. Normally, that happens only with a bad movie (the last time that happened to me was with Jack and Jill, a bad movie if there ever was one). That is not the case here. Very few movies have me sit as still as The Babadook. I admit there were times I was even wanting to close my eyes, which has not happened to me since I was afraid of Cruella De Ville as a kid. If my comments don’t persuade you, listen to the words of The Exorcist director William Friedkin.
“I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook.”
Overall: Four Stars ****