Movie Review: The Babadook – A Haunting Genre Flick

Written by Hannah Kay December 10, 2014

It’s so rare and refreshing to find a truly terrifying horror film these days, but with “The Babadook”, Australian director Jennifer Kent presents us with what is probably the most frightening genre flick to come out this year.  Despite its silly sounding name, the movie has been hailed by film critics and audiences alike, with William Friedkin – the director of “The Exorcist” – even going so far as to say that it was the most terrifying film he had ever seen.

Maybe Friedkin is going soft in his old age, as it might not be the scariest movie ever, but “The Babadook” definitely packs a scary punch. What’s important to note is that the film isn’t scary in the traditional horror sense of jump scares and loud music, but the entire movie gives off an atmosphere of suspense and eeriness which leads to a legitimately haunting experience. Especially since it delves into some of the real-life horrors that people can face like depression, grief, and stress.

“If it’s in a word, or if it’s in a look you can’t get rid of the Babadook”

“The Babadook” begins with the introduction of a single mother, Amelia and her 6 year old son, Samuel. Immediately, we learn of the incredible amount of stress this poor woman has to go through. Juggling a job along with a very disruptive 6 year old who’s prone to violence and night terrors is no easy task, and “The Babadook” does a great job in not romanticizing the hardships of single parenthood. Esse Davis, the actor who plays Amelia, is the star of this flick. She does absolutely fantastic work in drawing audiences in to fully understand what the character is feeling in that moment. When Samuel finds the eponymous book on the shelf, they both sit down to read it, only to soon realise that they may have brought the ghoulish monster into the real world.

Amelia attempts to destroy the book, but surprise! It arrives at the front door with an extra addition in its pages: Amelia committing murderous acts to her dog, Samuel, and finally to herself. It is then that we see Amelia’s sanity spiral out of control, her actions and even voice beginning to mimic The Babadook’s. At one point we see her sitting fully clothed in a bath just staring into empty space. Is she possessed? Or are we watching the psychotic breakdown of a woman who has just gone through too much stress? “The Babadook” leaves this unclear – another reason why this movie has appealed to so many.

As mentioned before, the acting from both the mother as well as the child is remarkable. When working with child-actors, it takes both talent from the director and the actor to bring out the best performance, and so Kent must be applauded as well. Having trained as an actor, Kent’s experience as a director came only from assisting Lars von Trier on the set of “Dogville” in 2003.To go from that to writing and directing a beautifully atmospheric full-length film is so incredibly impressive, I can’t wait to see what she creates in the future.

Sound design and the colour palate are just two elements played around with to create the atmosphere of the film. Throughout the entire film, eerie music is played throughout, with the music directly responding to whatever’s happening on screen. For example, a door slam shut, with the music stopping abruptly as it did so. As well, the muted colours of the film give it an older horror movie-ish vibe, reminiscent of the 70’s and 80’s classics like “The Thing”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and “The Shining”. The fact that all the special effects were done with stop-motion animation must be noted as well, which furthers creates the feel of a much older flick.

Kent created such a wonderfully terrifying horror film with “The Babadook”. It’s currently only playing in select theatres, so if you have the chance to go see it in theatres, do so! It is very highly recommended.

My Rating: 9/10

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