A Refreshingly Different Side of the Horror Genre
The Babadook is written by and is also the directorial feature-length debut from Jennifer Kent. The film stars Essie Davis (The Matrix 2 & 3) and introduces the young Noah Wiseman. The film tells the story of a single mother who is majorly affected by the death of her husband. She battles with her son's fear of monsters but soon starts to feel a sinister presence all around her. A Sundance 2013 favourite and adored by critics (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), will The Babadook live up to its hype and scare you in a new kind of way?
I immediately compare this to It Follows - both films don't overuse 'jump scares' which is what mainstream audiences have come to know as ingredients to a good horror film. However, where It Follows failed, this really succeeds! The metaphor in this film is obvious - grief. You can't escape it and it can really change who you are. I thought that this theme was portrayed really well in The Babadook and I was really impressed. The story is very original because the monster that the characters are afraid of isn't actually real - it is all in their minds. The story actually moves at quite a nice pace - unlike normal horror films which take about 30 minutes to swing into action. Also, It Follows' scare element was quite laughable - The Babadook's is not - it is real and something that everyone will go through one day (grief). It kind of makes you scared for when you do have to deal with those type of situations. The story is very moving and heartfelt which I can personally connect to - my family when through a similar situation when I was younger and my mother became a single parent. All of my families lives were effected and there are always days where we grieve - it isn't something that is going to disappear. I thought the portrayal of grief was quite accurate in this film (even though it is a very extreme case of grief).
Now lets talk about how this film actually fits into the horror genre. The actual concept of The Babadook (the monster itself) is quite scary which helps add to the tone even if it isn't actually real. The childrens book about The Babadook is also quite disturbing - more so when it arrives back on the families doorstep with added pages. I did jump at some points towards the end but it was refreshing to not have the whole film filled with this type of scare. The Babadook is very psychological - if you let it into your mind, it will really creep you out - whether its about the fear of suffering from grief, watching a human being get so caught up in it that they do dramatic things or whether its just simply about your mind playing tricks on you in the dark - The Babadook will haunt you in many ways (if you let it).
The acting in this film is also brilliant. I have never witnessed Essie Davis in any other role before but I thought she was magnificent in this. She played the role of a grieving mother so well and accurately - she was really impressive. After watching her, I do agree with other critics that she was definitely snubbed with the Oscar nominations. Davis was also really diverse - she can go from being a caring mother to a psychopath in the blink of an eye - that is talent! Towards the end of the film, you lose your fear of The Babadook and begin to gain fear of Davis' character. Noah Wiseman is also very good- this is his first big film and he is only very young - surely this would have gave him nightmares? Wiseman is very talented but a little annoying at times which kind of works though. The chemistry between these two actors is fantastic - it is like they are really parent and child. Davis plays the struggling single mother whilst Wiseman plays the eccentric, naughty child. Even though there are few, the other cast members are also good - no bad performances were made.
If I had seen The Babadook in 2014, it would have made my top 10 of the year. The Babadook is not one for the faint of heart, it is so clever that it manages to create a new type of horror. There are so many factors for you to get scared about in this film that people actually fear in real life. The Babadook is one of the best horror films that I have seen (Along with The Conjuring) - it is frightening, real, effective, disturbing, chilling and not far off from being a masterpiece. You might want to sleep with the lights on after you watch this---the mind plays with you in the dark...or does it?