“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook.”
With little to no major marketing this horror film has flown under the radar of many moviegoers. “The Babadook” is an Australian horror film written and directed by Jennifer Kent. Based on Kent’s short film “Monster,” “The Babadook” tells the tale of Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow who must protect her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), from the Babadook, a supernatural entity who enters their home through the pages of a children’s book. The film boasts a powerful and creative story backed by all-around outstanding performances making it one of the best horror films of the decade.
The film is much more than a horror movie. Unlike most modern horror films that focus on creating cheap jump scares and meaningless gore, “The Babadook” tells an actual story. Kent takes inspiration from Roman Polanski domestic horrors like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Tenant” or “Repulsion.” The film is frightening, but at its core it has a strong story: It is about a mother battling her inner demons.
The Babadook isn’t just another Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees — it’s a physical manifestation of a much bigger problem, which is Amelia’s inability to cope with the death of her husband. For this reason, the film is more interesting to watch because we are seeing actual human beings with character development, rather than the caricature of a human being whose main goal is to die or get frightened just for the amusement of the audience.
The deep characters are also brought to life through incredible performances from amazing and capable actors. With a limited main cast, the film relies on Essie Davis’ performance, and she doesn’t disappoint. Davis brings the traumatized widow role to life, with the ability to switch to a hostile, borderline abusive parent on a dime. Davis does an incredible job of bringing the essence of the Babadook within herself toward the end of the film, making herself seem like a complete monster.
Davis synergizes incredibly well with co-star Noah Wiseman. Wiseman plays the role of a child who’s an outsider, speaks his mind and is too smart for his own good. Wiseman is seven years old, but manages to bring out an incredible amount of emotions to the film. Wiseman brings life to lines like “I know you don’t love me. The Babadook won’t let you, but I still love you Mom,” or something as simple as, “I’ll promise to protect you, if you promise to protect me.”
All of this is enhanced by Kent’s approach to the aesthetics of the film itself. Kent’s film is influenced by many silent films of the early 20th century. The film is dressed with weird shapes and harsh shadows which pay homage to German expressionist films like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”
Kent’s use of in-camera effects also pays tribute to early George Melias films like “The Devil’s Manor.” Kent’s homage is unique. Although the film tries to emulate old camera techniques and aesthetics, it does it with a modern twist that helps the film stand out amongst other films.
“The Babadook” is more than just a supernatural horror film about a monster with a silly name. It’s about mourning and coping with loss of a loved one and how far melancholia can drive someone into becoming a monster. It’s also an incredible homage to a lot of the films responsible for starting the horror genre. “The Babadook” should be considered a graceful reboot of the genre, and films should follow in its footsteps like it followed in the path of others.
Rating: 5 stars