A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
The Babadook is a difficult film to write about.
On one hand the marketing campaign for the Babadook is trying to hype it as a really scary movie about a boy and the monster from a popup book. On the other there is a great and very subtle film full of references and meaning you could quite easily miss. If I wrote this a few weeks ago, 90% of this would of been a screed about the mis-marketing of the film. After rewatching the movie a second time, Im going to try and give a honest review.
The Babadook when you look past the boogie man in the popup book is far more of an art house film of symbolic imagery with double meaning. The film is about Amelia, a single mother and care home worker and the fragmented relationship she has with her ADD son Samuel following the death of her husband as he was born. Both Essie Davis (Amelia) and Noah Wiseman (Samuel) in the film are just superb, bringing depth and tension to the film through their strained relationship. The ever present Babadook from the popup book starts to appear in their lives causing Samuel to become obsessed and Amelia to slowly lose her mind through resentment, stress, lack of sleep and depression.
I’m a huge fan of the less is more scenario when it comes to monsters and the Babadook probably just about gets it right, through the mixture of shadowed glances and pov shots from his perspective of Amelia you don’t see too much of the top hatted creep.
The wrap up of the film after the third act, (which I wont try and spoil or talk about in great detail), highlights what (I think) the Babadook is meant to be. Something I missed the first time because I was taking the entire film on face value. It certainly had us comparing theories walking out to the car.
Unless you have some unresolved ‘monster under the bed’ issues from your childhood, the Babadook is probably not going to be the scarefest its being made out to be, but it is a great film. The problem with the comments and quotes in the marketing is while its going to draw an audience but its only going to leave a lot of people disappointed. Think of it like this – if you go out for food really wanting a burger, but instead have some of the best pizza you’ve ever eaten. As good as the pizza is, you will be disappointed its not a burger. I went into Babadook the first time looking forward to a scary story and watching Mark cling to the ceiling, because of this I missed a lot of the symbolism, meaning and heart of the film as I was expecting it to be a boogie man in the book – which for the most part it isn’t.
Clear your mind and watch it with no preconceived notions. You might see the great film a lot of other reviews talk about.
Alright I admit it. I hated Babadook! There. Ok? Happy now? I said it.
I sat at FrightFest this August, as did other reviewers on this site, and slowly sank into my seat, deflated as it dawned upon me that this was not this years Insidious. Not Sinister. Not The woman In Black. And I left the screening hating the pic. The fact I’d missed my only chance to see Adam Green’s Digging Up The Marrow hardly helped my mood. Babadook was Crapadook!
Only thing is, I was wrong. And if I’m being honest I knew that I was wrong almost straight away. Because while Babadook hadn’t delivered the scares, frights, and jumps that the trailer had promised (more of this later) there was an awful lot right with The Babadook.
Essie Davis pretty much steals the show as a bereaved young mother, Amelia who is eaten by grief whilst trying to keep herself together for her young son, Samuel. A non too shabby performance from Noah Wiseman who portrays a child haunted beyond his young age, when the Babadook, or whatever else threatens the boy his face is a picture of true dread.
The art Department and Cinematography combine to create a nondescript house that gives off a feel of neglect, and decay, an almost physical manifestation of the mental state of Amelia. Into this tragedy enters the book of The Babadook, that Samuel finds. The book is a pop up nightmare that every horror fan worth their salt will want on their bookshelves. The Babadook pop ups are really quite disturbing and ramp up the viewers tension for the actual Babadook being revealed. Is the Babadook real? Oh, yes, but just how much the creature is an embodiment of the mothers mental disintegration is open to interpretation.
When the Babadook makes its appearance, the expert use of sound, especially the chilling repition of elongated rasping, “Bab-A-Dooook’s”, coupled with the shadows being seemingly enveloped within the creature, is truly disconcerting. While the creature adds a new original monster to the legions of horror movie terrors, I can best describe it thematically as a merger of The Shining and The Orphanage. The sense of loss, the fear of a child, the mental fragility of a parent combine to make a fresh, thoughtful, and slow burn horror film that I will be happy to add to my collection upon release. Congratulations to writer/director Jennifer Kent, who hopefully will revisit the genre again.
Sorry Babadook, I was wrong.
The Babadook is out at cinemas now