“You can’t get rid of the Babadook”. And you shouldn’t want to.
The Babadook (2014) is an indie Australian horror film directed by Jennifer Kent (directorial debut). It stars Essie Davis as Amelia, a single mother plagued by the death of her husband and struggling to survive daily life. After her troubled young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) finds a mysterious pop-up book, she and him begin to be haunted by an ethereal entity known as ‘Mr Babadook’.
What a movie. Honestly, this is one of the most terrifying and intelligent masterclasses of film-making I have seen in a long time. Its mind-boggling that this is Kent’s theatrical début considering how well constructed this movie is – The narrative is tight, filled with plenty of subtext and consistently keeps the audience not only guessing but bloody terrified. This is more than your standard supernatural horror show . There’s metaphor, layers and subtleties abound in this film, and it creates a far richer cinematic experience than your usual ghost flick.
But damn, this movie is scarier and more unsettling than seeing your grandmother naked. Its rich with atmosphere and brilliant horror design choices. There’s no CGI. No jump scares. No gore. Nothing. The film is not cheap in any respect, and relies solely on its atmosphere and imagery to propel its terror, which it has in spades. The design and execution of the Babadook itself is a sight to behold, managing to sell the children’s book aspect while still being on of the scariest and most ethereal images I have ever seen.
And the performances! Bloody hell, the performances. Essie Davis is Oscar-worthy as Amelia, playing multiple sides to the beaten, exhausted single mother with utter perfection. Noah Wiseman is also ridiculously good as Samuel and has an incredibly authentic rapport with Davis. While he starts intentionally unlikeable, the character of Sam goes through a shift that Wiseman (and the script I should add) create seamlessly and subtly, it happening so steadily that you don’t notice it until its right in your face.
And I normally don’t acknowledge this (as good audio is audio you don’t notice), but the sound design in this film is absolutely brilliant. The sound effects, score and musical cues are all pitch-perfect and elevate this masterpiece to another level of brilliance.
I don’t know if I can praise The Babadook enough. Not only is it potentially my favourite horror film of all time, its hands-down one of my favourite films of all time and one of the best directorial débuts ever. Directed and performed to the point of perfect terror, The Babadook is an experience all horror loves should have, and is one that will stay with you till the day you die.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Must-see