The greatest horror is not what we see, but rather what we don’t. With The Babadook, first time director Jennifer Kent has took this approach and created something with such a distinguished atmosphere. Honestly, apart from last year’s The Conjuring I’m struggling to find another horror which utilises tension as well as Kent does here.
She manifests a ruthlessness in her approach, never surrounding to the cliches - loud bangs, crashing doors - of the genre and working The Babadook as something of a gothic fairytale, incorporating the significance of old-fashioned horror to her advantage to provide something with a unique, attitude that still manages to feel like something which wouldn’t look out of place with a release date many decades earlier. Kent’s psychological reliance here cannot be understated as it provides a dimension to the horror we witness, taking your simple monster tale all the way to the crippling insanity of the final act.
Essie Davis, as the main protagonist, is represented of this psychological approach. She delivers a performance with enough emotion and drama and develops it into something so brutal where much of her presence felt reminiscent of Mia Farrow’s pain in Rosemary’s Baby and Jack Nicholson’s insanity during The Shining. Those are two very bold statements - two of the finest horrors of all-time - but I really feel Davis’ work here is one of the most fleshed out performances you'll find in contemporary horror cinema.
The patience which this film relies on may feel too strained for some, particularly in the early stages, but I found the terror of waiting for something horrific to happen to be more scary than when the Babadook’s physical presence shows itself to us. A special mention has to go out to not only the editing, but the sound design here which is crazy. The Babadook deserves its acclaim.