Director: Jennifer Kent
Stars: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Year Released: 2014
From her own screenplay, Jennifer Kent creates a modern masterpiece of the horror/thriller genre in her movie The Babadook.
Filmed in Australia, The Babdook shows us what a low budget but well crafted film can bring to the screen when the Hollywood machine is not forcing the viewer to adhere to known images or brands. Filmed with an eye toward gritty imagery and visual storytelling, Kent uses the concept of the “haunted house”, family trauma and psychological horror to emerse the viewer in a dark and twisted tale of a young boy unable to cope with the effects of his father’s death and his mother, who is unable to deal with a child that is “troubled”.
When Amelia (Essie Davis) reads her young son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a bedtime story featuring the titular character, The Babadook, she was expecting a quaint moment with her son. Little did she know that on the pages before her would appear a message of pain and suffering being given to her and her child. Depsite her attempts to get rid of the disconcerting picture book, the message she had seen on the pages return, sliding tabs cleverly suggesting the macabre nature of the writers intent. Her attempts to find help only further reinforce the idea that both her son and herself are in grave danger. Samuel’s behavior threatens the well being of the children around him, he is unable to process his peers taunting him and the beahviors that his mother at first thinks are simply him acting out.
When Amelia begins seeing story of The Babadook happening and then the monster itself, the real horror of the story unfolds.
The young Noah Wiseman does an phenominal job of instilling a sense of panic and anxiety in every scene, while Essie Davis at first makes the viewer feel sorry for her before we share her confusion and fright. I think the movie may have actually have been better done if we never saw a character outside of these two and the horror that threatens them. Using a fantastic balance of stop-motion and gothic costume, The Babadook embodies misery and the threat or punishment. It is not only the imagery that will keep you in your seat, afraid to walk across your darkened living room; the wounded animal chant of baba-dook-dook-dook is enough to make you wait until the credits are done before you venture into the kitchen for another beer.
I strongly suggest fans of classic horror check this out, it will feel like something out of the late 70’s for all the right reasons.