The Babadook (2014)
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Synopsis: Single-mother Amelia and her seven-year-old son, Samuel, are terrorized by a monster that goes by the name, Mister Babadook that they unleashed by reading a creepy pop-up book.
What work(s): The acting abilities of the two leads, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. Both great horror movie performances. I haven’t seen Essie Davis in anything (she had a role in the Matrix sequels but I don’t remember her) but I will look forward to seeing her in future films. Noah was a perfect crazy and off-the-wall brat as well as playing a heroic and protective kid.
The set and production design, as well as the cinematography were all top notch. The artwork and design of the pop-up book especially were excellent. On the film’s website they have a fund-raising campaign to actually make a real Mister Babadook pop-up book and I’m actually very close to buying one! The house that Amelia and Samuel live in should be noted is almost designed like the book, the colors in the house are all shades of gray and dark blue. Even Samuel’s room walls are painted black. That was a nice touch.
Without going into too much spoiler territory I will state that the inner demon—Amelia’s inner Babadook if you will—is where the real horror lies in this film. Sure, it may look like Mr. Babadook is stalking and terrorizing them but underneath that theme is a greater point to the story. It’s not hard to see when watching the film; it’s fairly obvious and plain but the film’s scares come from a very agonizing place in the human psyche.
What fail(s): I can’t complain too much about this film. I have said time and time again that I am rarely ever scared from a horror movie. My skin is too thick apparently and it’s quite a shame that only a small handful of horror films even gave me the willies. So I shouldn’t judge The Babadook on that aspect. But I read that William Friedkin said: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” That’s coming from the director of The Exorcist! But sadly, I’m not easily spooked as much as Mr. Friedkin apparently. However, the ending was kinda weak. Not just in how they handled the finale with Mr. Babadook but in how they ended the whole film. Left me kinda meh and wondering if they could’ve explained things better. While I liked the tone and symbolism of the plot or theme of the film, the symbolism was too overtly obvious in some regards.
Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Probably more for the look and feel of it as well as the character-study of the two leads and the acting performances. While I was a bit over-hyped to as how scary it was, I still liked it a lot. We complain a ton on this site as to the lack of good horror films these days and thankfully we get some decent ones like this. But friends, my only wish is to be terrified from a film. One that makes me question every single noise in my house late at night.
I should also add that being a parent to young children will especially enhance your viewing experience. I’m not saying the film isn’t good for non-parents and I’m sure most of you might still enjoy the scares of the film but if you have young kids this film will speak volumes to you. It did me, I have two young kids and all while watching the film I was effected by the film’s underlining theme in a way that no jump-scare or eerie atmosphere can give me.
Score: 8 Baa-Baa-DOOKs (out of 10)