Its been a long time since a movie made me turn on the lights and check under the bed, but The Babadook brings a unique perspective on fear that had me doing just that. An understated nail biter, take Papa Bacchus’ word and check this one out as soon as you can.
The lead Amelia, played by the genius Essie Davis, is a single mother to a disturbed son – a mother made single when she was involved in an accident on the way to the hospital to give birth, and her husband didn’t make it out alive. Her son, Samuel, is plagued by monsters, building rather ingenious weapons to combat them. Amelia maintains a gentle balance, barely juggling work, a disturbed son, and a queen bitch of a sister.
This balance is quickly upset when a childrens book Mister Babadook mysteriously makes it into their lives. And once you let the Babadook in, you can’t get him out…
At its core The Babadook is a performance piece, a composition held together by two brilliant actors (especially the kid, played by Noah Wiseman, who has no damn right being that naturally talented) that effortlessly builds tension and keeps the viewer hanging on every moment, waiting, damn near PRAYING, for something to happen.
The mother, a perfect personification of the desperate single mom, is absolutely haunting. She quickly becomes the focus, offset by her at times deranged, at times insightful, but generally creepy son.
Besides the actual Babadook Book (which is so fucking eerie on its own I WANT ONE) the real terror comes not from what we see or hear, but rather what we don’t. Otherwise pregnant moments are oddly bereft of sound.
Sound, such an especially important aspect of ANY horror movie, then absent in key moments of The Babadook, creates a terrifying void – which is, by nature, completely bizarre.
Further into the film mother and son call out of work and school, playing (and really seeming) ill, as the mother Amelia goes further and further down the proverbial rabbit hole, and The Babadook gets what he wants. The play from one to the other (mother to son) is nearly beautiful in its ballet – where one’s insane, the other’s trying to keep it together – when one is together, the other falls apart. Beautiful – both terrifically written AND performed, something increasingly rare these days.
I asked a friend of mine recently what makes a good horror movie, and I tend to agree – it’s all about what you’re left with, and if it stays with you. And I can definitely say that about The Babadook…it does NOT leave you.
TL; DR 8.5/10 – While the ending is a bit lackluster and off putting, the film itself is terrifying in a way I haven’t seen in a LONG time.
You’ll want to stay sharp, but The Babadook pairs well with a spicy red wine. Try a Malbec, you’ll appreciate the warmth.