I sort of don’t want to tell you much about the plot because part of the fun, the suspense, the horror is in the not knowing. I will tell you as much as it says on IMDB, which is basically that a widowed mum is struggling to deal with her husband’s death and her son’s bogeyman fixation, which stems from a super-creepy book called Mr. Babadook. Sorry to be vague, but I really don’t want to spoil it.
What I will say is that…I don’t think I’m over stating it if I say that The Babadook is one of the best and most original horror films I’ve seen in years. Centring on the relationship between a woman and her six-year-old son, The Babadook is more than just a horror film. It doesn’t rely on the cheap jump scares (yes Annabelle, like you) of the shitty bigger budget American films that get churned out on a regular basis. It doesn’t rehash stories we’ve heard before (I’m looking at you, The Conjuring). And it isn’t full of blood, guts and torture like the horrible Saw franchise or even worse that series of abominations that began with Hostel.
No. The Babadook is intelligent and thought-provoking, raising questions about mental health, loneliness, grief, parenthood and specifically the challenges of raising a child alone. The story is simple, yet effective, it is layered, and demands that the viewer to delves deeper, thinks harder, than most common or garden horrors: what’s really going on here? Where did the book come from? What’s a Babadook? Is it real or just a shared delusion? To some extent, it’s up to you to decide, because there are no easy or definitive answers to be found.
Perhaps the best thing about The Babadook is the outstanding performances. Essie Davis is wonderful as the grieving widow, Amelia, I was impressed and unnerved by the way she so convincingly portrayed such a wide range of emotions. Noah Wiseman more than holds his own as her young son, Samuel. Sure, the character can be more than a little annoying at the start, but you’ll still be rooting for him.
The minimalist set and costume designs, along with the understated use of sound and music combine perfectly to exacerbate the claustrophobic sense of impending doom. The effects might be basic, but that doesn’t matter. There’s much more I’d like to say but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who plans on seeing it.
This is the first feature film for writer-director Jennifer Kent, and she’s managed to create a startling and memorable addition to the horror cannon. I can’t wait to see what she does next.