A mysterious pop-up book results in terror for a single mother and her child in the Australian horror film The Babadook. Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mother, who struggles to care for her six year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Suffering from apparent behavioural problems, Samuel is obsessed with finding and killing monsters, which includes developing weapons. One night, when asked by Amelia to choose a bedtime story, Samuel picks a mysterious pop-up book off the shelf entitled “Mister Babadook,” about a malevolent boogeyman. After reading the book, Samuel begins to believe that The Babadook is coming after them. While Amelia initially believes this to be more of her son’s delusions, strange happenings around the house causes her to realize that this boogeyman might actually be real.
The Babadook has a lot of hype around it, stating that the film is one of the most frightening films this year. While it is probably not a film that is going to satisfy everyone, The Babadook is indeed a film that delivers some extreme tension. The film opts to get under the viewer’s skin, rather than rely on jump scares. With The Babadook often being heard, rather than seen, the film benefits greatly from this fear of the unknown. The film is most definitely best seen in a theatre, where the Babadook’s chant of “baba dook dook dook,” will really send shivers up and down your spine. Things get quite intense in the film’s climax, even though the film could have ended a bit better.
The Babadook is also a highly metaphoric film. With Amelia being a single mother, whose husband died in a car accident, while driving her to give birth to Samuel, the film uses the horror to represent the stresses of raising a child. The film features a great lead performance by Essie Davis, who portrays Amelia as someone on the brink of insomnia, due to her having to deal with the constant demands of her very annoying son Samuel. Somewhat disturbed kids are almost a cliché in horror films and there is very real chance that Samuel will get on the audience’s nerves, just as much as Amelia. However, that’s nothing against the performance of Noah Wiseman, since I believe that Samuel is supposed to come off that way.
Over the course of the film, the question arises whether The Babadook is truly a real monster or is merely something within Amelia’s stressed-out mind. The fact that the plot of the film is open to many different interpretations helps to make The Babadook much more than simply a throwaway horror film. In fact, there is very real message behind the scares of the film, which is not something that many films of this genre can claim. Also, in a genre lacking of female directors, The Babadook is most definitely an achievement for director Jennifer Kent. It’s even more amazing that this is Kent’s debut feature film, which was adapted from her 2005 short film Monster. I will definitely look forward to any future projects this filmmaker does.
Altogether, The Babadook is a very enjoyable, tense and chilling spook story.★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 | REALLY LIKED IT
The Babadook opens today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox