There’s something quite special about the movie industry’s ability to turn children into perhaps the creepiest things on this planet. I still hear Danny shouting REDRUM at me in my dreams sometimes, or Damien smiling at me like the sneaky little devil that he is. All these things that seem to be innocent and sweet in real life like nursery rhymes and stories manage to get twisted into something truly sinister and that’s exactly what The Babadook relies on.
It’s not often that a unique and challenging horror comes along. Hollywood is quite happy to make a bazillion Friday Halloween Elm Street Saw sequels, but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency in testing the waters and coming up with new ideas. Thankfully Australia has come along and delivered one of the best and most disturbing films in recent memory.
What’s It About? If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know that The Babadook is based around a strange book that Sam (Noah Wiseman) finds on his shelf and gets his mother Amelia (Essie Davis) to read to him. The book Mister Babadook suggests that the lead creature will haunt anyone that knows of him, and as you can imagine it all goes downhill from there. It’s quite a simple idea which mixes your traditional monster movie with the emotional turmoil that the family are going through – Samuel’s father passed away and Amelia has to look after him alone. This is a situation that would be difficult enough by itself without the added bonus of a monster that wants to torture you every day.
To its credit The Babadook is a tight and focused chiller that benefits from the low budget feel, truly allowing the performances of Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman to shine through. Samuel’s belief about The Babadook is largely ignored due to the fact he’s a small child, while Amelia tries to remain calm and collected, despite the struggles she has raising a problem child by herself. The horror is based in reality as much as it is in fiction, and its this blur between the two that keeps your interest.
Verdict: By the end of film you really feel like you’ve been on an emotional roller coaster – not just from the fantasy horror element of Mister Babadook himself, but the journey that the family takes. The movie works on a number of levels with clever and surprising shocks, and a threat that feels real. When you think back to a movie like The Exorcist it managed to create fear from a child’s suffering – not just a fantasy element like possession but the tests in the hospital and the relationship with the mother. The Babadook works in a similar way because Sam’s fears could all be imaginary but on closer inspection the problems at the heart of the situation are real.
Final Words: It’s not the first time in recent memory that a non-Hollywood horror has managed to capture the imaginations of audiences around the world. The Babadook might take inspiration from other tales here and there, but as a whole it is one of the more original films you’ll have the pleasure of seeing. Its simplicity matched with breakout performances from the leads makes The Babadook a must-see for any horror/thriller fan out there. This is one that will stick with you far after the end credits.
The Babadook is out on Blu-ray and DVD today.