Movie Review: The Babadook

@MsLauraHall reviews The Badadook – and honestly they should get a room…

“If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook” and nor do I want to. I love it so much I want to take it to dinner with my parents and then go to IKEA with it to pick out furniture. Australian director Jennifer Kent’s debut film is that good.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is the worn out single mother with a frayed relationship with her hyperactive 6-year-old Samuel (Noah Wiseman). As both Samuel’s 7th birthday and the anniversary of his Father’s death approaches, Amelia finds a strange picture book about a monster called Mister Babadook on her son’s bookshelf. It becomes apparent that the Babadook is more than just a fairytale as Amelia’s life spins out of control.
Families in spooky houses are nothing new, but few haunted house films can boast characters with as much depth and nuance. What separates The Babadook from its peers is its psychological depth. Amelia’s struggle to stave off mental collapse and overcome the resentment she feels toward her son is raw and compelling. Essie Davis’ performance of Amelia is exceptional. Noah Wiseman is notable also, for giving Samuel enough courage and heart to keep the character from falling into the “annoying kid” trope. In lesser hands such a story could easily descend into sentiment and melodrama, but Jennifer Kent’s characters are convincingly drawn. Their actions and reactions feel natural; a rarity in a genre film.

While the characters are deeply complex, Kent deftly weaves in more fantastical elements, making nods to both old school cinema chillers and to fairytales. Its stylised aesthetic feels like an Edward Gorey illustration come to life, with its linear shades of grey. The result is a film that feels both deliciously gothic and yet grounded in terrifying reality.

The horror of The Babadook is well and truly old school, yet feels so fresh, due to the precise direction of Kent, who does not waste a frame and sustains an atmosphere of creeping terror throughout.

As the film so playfully warns us “You can’t get rid of the Babadook” – and it’s true. The film’s potent visuals, scary suggestion, psychological terror and powerful drama leave a powerful and lingering impression. Make no mistake; The Babadook is an instant horror classic. Now please someone buy me a copy of the picture book ASAP.

Laura Hall

Follow @MsLauraHall on twitter


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