'The Babadook' is a psychological horror film from first time director Jennifer Kent. It tells the story of Ameilia, a troubled mother, and her son Samuel, who sees monsters. One night Samuel picks a story book off the shelf for Amelia to read. The book is titled 'The Babadook', and tells the story of Mister Babadook, a creature who wants you to 'let him in' so he can show you what is underneath his cloak and you will know he is there when you hear his 'three sharp knocks'. Being a child, Samuel is obviously terrified and begins to see Mister Babadook. However, strange things begin to happen in the house and Samuel isn't the only one who can see him.
Finally a good horror movie has come to our screens. Director Jennifer Kent has taken the most basic of childhood terrors, the monster in the closet, and has turned it into a truly frightening experience for adults. It is refreshing to finally see a horror film that doesn't rely on jump scares in order to frighten audiences. Instead the film plays with your mind as it tries to draw your eyes elsewhere in the scene so as to make you look for Mister Babadook. The reason why the film is a winner is because it plays more on the subtle effects of horror as you try to decide whether you saw him or not and when you do see him the imagery is unbelievably unnerving. But above all the best aspect of the film is that the characters feel real. They behave as any normal person would when confronted by such horror. In one scene, Amelia and Samuel are asleep in bed and then they hear Mister Babadook's signature calling card of three knocks. Amelia quickly pulls the sheets over her head as we all have when we hear bumps in the night, further emphasising the fact that the film has taken one of our childhood fears and turned into a terrifying experience for adults.
The acting in the film is great. Essie Davis is terrific as Amelia, the grieving mother who simply desires a good night's sleep. With such a small cast she stands out by far as the best character as she plays Amelia with incredible honesty as you truly feel as though she is genuinely frightened of her environment as the film follows her descent into madness. A true Oscar worthy performance. Noah Wiseman is brilliant as Samuel, as you initially find him to be a difficult child in the film however as the film progresses you soon come to comfort his company.
Horror seems to have become something of a gimmick nowadays with a genuinely good horror movie becoming an exceedingly rare treat. The only other psychological horror movie that springs to mind that I have seen recently that is on par with 'The Babadook', is that of Oculus by Mike Flanagan. The film was incredibly eerie as, like 'The Babadook', it focused on what is truly frightening. Insanity is an unbelievably horrifying thing to have to fall into and watching these characters do so is what horror really should be. The fear of things that could actually happen to us in real life.
'The Babadook' is a brilliant horror film for both those looking for something fun to watch and for those who wish to look beyond and behind the meanings of the film. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the film other than its creep factor is that of the lighting and the colour palette of each scene. The house is entirely grey or black and is void of any colour making for an incredibly unnerving atmosphere. The sound in the film is unbelievable with truly unsettling bumps in the night and the Babadook's voice is perhaps the most frightening thing I have ever heard in film.
Overall, 'The Babadook' is a horrifying experience with brilliant acting and a brilliant and heartfelt story to boast. With characters you care for, unnerving mise en scene and sound, creepy imagery, and an incredible ending as well, 'The Babadook is an incredible case study of the effects of grief and depression as it takes one of our worst childhood fears and turns it into an unforgettable experience for adults. 5 out of 5.