The horror film genre has been on the decline in recent years. Sure, the Paranormal Activity series and various demon possession flicks grace the cineplex every now and then but they are simply the same premise recycled over and over again. Originality is a rarity these days and that is a real shame. That is of course until a film like the Australian psychological fright fest The Babadook comes along and turns the genre right on its head. A random scary movie which seems to be making a powerful impact, it is a film that relies on old fashioned storytelling, superb performances, a tight script, and even tighter direction. This is one horror film destined to become a genre classic.
The Babadook focuses on single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Samuel has behavioral problems that are escalating and Amelia is eventually forced to take him out of school. Struggling to keep Samuel’s emotions in check, Amelia is working hard and beginning to lose her grip of the situation. To complicate matters, Amelia comes across a bizarre pop-up storybook entitled “The Babadook”. In the book, a dark shadowy monster delivers creepy messages to its readers and Amelia and Samuel feel a strong presence emanating from the book. Soon, they begin to get stalked by the Babadook but is all this real or is it all just a figment of their imaginations?
Psychological horror films are usually the most terrifying and this is because they rely almost solely on the human mind to conjure up scares. One’s brain is capable of a great many things including generating the emotion of fear. Fear is strongest when someone perceives a situation as threatening and the main characters in The Babadook are prime examples of this. The book they stumble upon seems like a normal pop-up book but soon the danger begins to feel very real. Essie Davis (The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix Reloaded) is terrific as the unhinged mother fighting the forces of darkness and young Noah Wiseman is genius as a troubled boy thrust into an even more psychologically-disturbing scenario.
Based on writer/director Jennifer Kent’s 2005 short film Monster, The Babadook feels low budget and that indie atmosphere helps the feature immensely. The film takes place almost exclusively in a creaky old house and there some clever uses of shadow that will definitely give you goose bumps. This isn’t your typical horror film and it doesn’t rely on buckets of blood and loud crashes to get your heart racing. This is a monster story but told in slick, subtle way that will linger in your memory soon after viewing it. The actual Babadook creature is fantastic creation and is basically a take on the Boogeyman, a creature who haunts your dreams and hides in the darkness. With such a powerful image, The Babadook would make for an ideal Halloween movie. All of the elements are in place and even a sequel seems likely. And a word to the wise: don’t see this film with the lights off.