After waiting forever for it to hit Netflix, I finally committed myself to seeing The Babadook: an Australian film that doesn’t skip out on the scares. With it’s hauntingly beautiful cinematography, it’s really good acting, and even it’s ever depressing tone, [which I’ll get to later] I was begging for this movie to be as good as it was living it up to be – and it certainly was! The fact that, being a foreign film, there were actors that I didn’t recognize – It’s made it something I found myself to really enjoy. Overall, the film was atmospheric, it was extremely suspenseful at times- without relying on jump scares- and best of all: it felt real. As with most of my reviews, there are spoilers ahead, so read on with that warning fresh in your mind..
The Babadook follows Amelia – a single mother plagued by thoughts of of her [dead] husband and her struggles to raise her troubled [and often times, even angry] son, Samuel. Regardless of these hardships though, Amelia still somehow manages to find the patience to read a book to her son every night. One specific night though, Samuel finds a book sitting on the top shelf, titled “Mister Babadook”, which he doesn’t seem to recognize.. [STEP ONE, KID: IF YOU DON’T RECOGNIZE SOMETHING, DON’T TOUCH IT; LEAVE IT ALONE!!] After more or less guilting his Mother to read this dark, unfamiliar book to him, Samuel starts making weapons out of wooden planks, tennis balls, and even dart guns! [pretty smart for a 7 year old..] Naturally, this ultimately end up with him being expelled from school – as we are told that he was telling people about the “Babadook“, and even firing his “toys” at the other kids!! But like any good horror story, strange things begin to happen at home – and they all seem to follow what we saw in the book, making Amelia [and Samuel] start to “see”, and feel the presence of the Babadook in their dreams, see it manifest itself onto TV [or at least, creatures that look close to] and – as they, and we – as the audience, fears most in every day real life.
BUT, There are exceptions to things I’ve said above though, such as one of the more important things people should know about the film, especially before diving in thinking it’s a monster movie – is that it’s not entirely about The Babadook as a monster. [wait, what?] Let me explain that: even though our “villain” has a fantastic [albeit, somewhat campy] design and his story is told extremely by a twisted storybook with violent, but great illustrations , the movie still stands taller with it’s take on the more human side of the tale – which is the seeing the struggle of Amelia as a mother who is clearly unable to live normally.
Sometimes, just watching the pacing of her life may feel like it’s moving too fast for the film, but if you include all the sadness and deprivation beneath her regular troubling days, you can tell that underneath all Amelia‘s strength, and her pains as a single mother, she’s hurting. badly. The film chooses to deliberately takes their personal grief, and then make sure that we, as the viewers, know that deep down – they aren’t actually insane: but that they’re hurting inside and that nobody else could ever understand what they’re going through. Therefore, although the movie talks about a “monster under the bed”, the plot is mainly concerned about Amelia finding a way to overcome Samuel‘s behavioral issues and her plaguing memories of the loss of her husband, rather than dealing with a supernatural threat calling itself “Babadook.”
Unless you count It Follows, which I talked about in great detail over here, It’s been a very long time since I have seen a horror film this effective. The Babadook is a film that is interested in engaging the audience with its characters, relying on it’s subtly and clever imagery to legitimately scare its audience – rather than go cheap, and use ineffective jump scares. If you haven’t seen it yet – take advantage of it being on Netflix; because every positive review you’ve read is true, just take one word of advice: if you have a book calling itself Mister Babadook on your shelf, and you don’t recognize it – don’t fucking touch it..
THANKS FOR READING.