By Tim Olsen
Quality horror movies are few and far between, with most choosing to rely on cheap jump scares and tired tropes to get the job done. Add the expectation of extreme gore, largely brought on by the “Saw” franchise, and you have what is usually a recipe for disappointment.
Thankfully, “The Babadook” doesn’t fall into any of these traps. In fact, it actually contains something that you don’t often find in horror films: depth.
“The Babadook” is a psychological horror film about a single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), desperately trying to raise her hyperactive 6-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman).
One night, Samuel asks his mother to read from a strange pop-up book titled “Mister Babadook,” which tells of a supernatural creature that will never stop haunting when one becomes aware of its presence.
Samuel is convinced the creature is real and begins to act out in defense, but Amelia is not so sure. She just attributes Samuel’s behavior to his overactive imagination. But, after some disturbing instances, she begins to secondguess herself.
Don’t let any low expectations fool you. This is a very deep and moving film, with a story that acts as a wonderful metaphor for the grieving process. It also tackles the difficulties of being a single mother, struggling to fill in the roles of supporter, protector, disciplinarian and comforter all at once, with every day feeling like you’ve reached your breaking point. It’s a tough job to do alone, and the film never shies away from fully expressing the exhausting effort.
Essie Davis deserves recognition for her performance, completely selling every emotion she is required to portray. She walks a fine line between being identifiable and abhorrent, never stepping too far in either direction, causing you to switch between hating, pitying, or fearing her at a moment’s notice.
Noah Wiseman matches her perfectly, managing to be incredibly obnoxious yet simultaneously sympathetic. As you watch these two it’s very easy to understand the characters’ mutual frustration with each other.
What helps them both is the film’s fantastic screenplay, which knows how and when to dramatize every moment for maximum impact. Director and writer Jennifer Kent showcases incredible writing skill, and her abilities behind the camera are a perfect match, creating an intense atmosphere that sticks under your skin and –
Sorry, I got chills just thinking about it…
“The Babadook” is a spectacular film with incredible performances, a deeply moving story and a rich atmosphere that refuses to leave. It is psychological horror in its purest form: deep, complex and disturbing, subtly tapping into our deepest insecurities with the force of a battering ram.
If you love horror and want something that will keep you up at night look no further; “The Babadook” will be happy to haunt you.