Director: Jennifer Kent Starring: Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall & Tim Purcell Synopsis: A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her. Rating: 15 Runtime: 93 minutes
Very rarely do I ever feel threatened by a film in such a way as The Babadook. As one part psychological thriller and one part monster movie, The Babadook stays with you in a way that many recent horror films simply do not. It’s mix of tension and supernatural scares are haunting, with a story that will surely polarise audiences as to where the real threat is coming from.
Essie Davis plays bereaved single mother Amelia, who is forced to bring up her only child Samuel, played by an excellent Noah Wiseman, after her husband is killed in a car crash while taking her to the hospital to give birth to their son. After the initial set up, we join the Davis family, and Samuel is now a six-year-old boy. Amelia works in a nursing home, but constantly struggles with the unexpected death of her husband, as well as a child whose behaviour has become increasingly erratic, which pushes Amelia further away from him and nearer to a potential mental breakdown.
As with all horror films, the monster that exists here has to be invited in, in some form or another, and here it is through a book titled Mister Babadook. The book seemingly appears from nowhere, as one night Amelia attempts to read the story to Samuel as a bit of bedtime reading. As each page is turned, the book becomes more sinister and Amelia questions whether or not she should carry on reading it, wondering which option would be more frightening to young Samuel.
It’s here where things become more ominous for the Davis family and the audience watching. Have Amelia and Samuel invited a monster into their home by reading the mysterious book that has somehow turned up? Or are mother and son struggling with the death of a husband who never had the opportunity to become a father, and their failure to move on from the tragic event that took him? It’s an element that plays throughout the film, and will leave you wondering as to who the true monster is.
It’s a question that perhaps best remains unanswered, with the unknown providing the biggest chills in the film. Director Jennifer Kent knows this, and creates a sustained amount of pressure that builds from the film’s early scenes. The audience, much like Amelia, will wish they hadn’t looked when The Babadook finally appears. It’s appearance will linger with you, and Kent shows just enough of the monster to scare you, while smartly keeping things restrained at the same time. As the film progresses, we see a breakdown in the relationship between Amelia and Samuel, with Amelia suffering in way not too dissimilar to that of Jack Torrance in The Shining, leaving Samuel alone to essentially battle two monsters.
The Babadook is a film full of questions and what ifs, and will surely require a second viewing before any attempt can be made to try to really get into the physical and mental threats we see here. On a basic level, The Babadook is a terrifying supernatural horror that takes its time to get going, but features a relentless final act that will haunt you long after you have left the cinema. On the other hand, it is a look at the horror of death, and how people have to find a way to learn to live with the loss of a loved one and reunite with those closest to them in order to move on. Either way, The Babadook is a brilliant mix of the supernatural and psychological that fully deserves all the attention it is currently receiving.
In summary: An excellent and terrifying horror film, that will leave you wondering where true evil really lies.