By Jennifer Ferron
Any movie enthusiast can agree that the horror film genre has been in need of a reboot lately. The audience is too often given the same gore-centered, simple plot reconfigured over and over again. Recently, the horror film has been given a fresh makeover with release of the 2014 Australian thriller, “The Babadook”.
I know what you must be thinking: “The Babadook? What could be so terrifying about Australian accents and a funny name?” To which I must reply, “everything.”
“The Babadook” was written by and served as the directorial debut of Jennifer Kent. The film was released in 2014 and has received critical acclaim since its first show. The plot centers on widow Amelia (Essie Davis) and her troublesome six-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Amelia is plagued by the piercing grief of her husband’s death and her struggle to continue raising a son that she does not love.
One night, a mysterious children’s bedtime book called “The Babadook” appears, and Samuel is convinced that the monster within this book has been haunting their family. Samuel spirals out of control, suffering from vivid hallucinations and becoming more violent and unpredictable. Amelia is both frightened and aggravated when she begins to see glimpses of the strange storybook character, and she soon questions her reality and her own sanity.
When I first heard the plot, I laughed it off. How scary could a movie about a children’s pop-up book actually be? Then, I watched the trailer and quickly realized that this was the “real deal” for a horror film. Kent creates a believable world where the audience finds themselves frightened and questioning what is real and what is not.
“The Babadook” is an incredibly smart horror film that does not rely on the use of a disfigured monster, jump shots, or loud noises, which are elements of horror films that too often become a crutch. Anytime Kent could have had the Babadook pop-out (and I would have cried on the spot), she instead chose to have him appear at certain, brief moments. The scares are so cleverly crafted that the audience also embarks on a psychological journey with Amelia and Jack. This film was not afraid to dive into themes of extreme grief, trauma, loneliness and growing up as the “weird” child.
Davis and Wiseman create a dynamic pair as mother and son. They were phenomenal throughout the film, especially when it came to Amelia’s psychological spiral. The audience can register real fear on Wiseman’s face; it is one of the most genuine reactions I have seen in a horror film. When the two are in the thick of the horror, it leaves the viewer feeling so uncomfortable and afraid. Davis and Wiseman truly portray genuine fear flawlessly.
Overall, “The Babadook” is an exceptionally exciting horror film that leaves the viewer questioning personal reality. I’m not one to be left afraid after seeing horror films, but after “The Babadook”, I caught myself jumping at coats on a hanger.
To watch the movie: Amazon Prime, Youtube rental, and select theaters.
Rotten Tomato: 97% Fresh
My score: 8/10