After reviewing not one but three movies in the Hatchet series, which were over the top [and gory] slasher films, I decided it was time to switch it up and review one of my favorite films of 2014: The Babadook. I’ve actually technically already reviewed it, here, But with it’s hauntingly beautiful cinematography, it’s really good acting, and even it’s ever depressing tone, I was begging this movie to be as good as it was living it up to be, especially after everyone wanted me to see it – and it certainly was.. It was everything I hoped it would be; with it being a foreign film, there were actors that I didn’t recognize – It’s made it something I found myself to really enjoy. This film was atmospheric, it was extremely suspenseful at times- without relying on too many jump scares- and best of all: it felt real. So let’s jump in to a film that really surprised me when it was first released. It’s not so much violent and gory, but rather psychological. So, whether it’s a word, or a look, let’s talk about..
The Babadook follows Amelia, a widow who lost her husband in a car crash on the way to give birth to Samuel – their only child. As seen in the movie, she struggles to cope with her fate as a single mom, especially with Samuel‘s constant fear of monsters and violent response as his way to overcome these fears. Because of this, Amelia has almost no friends, and the friends she does have become distant. Just when you think that things cannot get any worse, Amelia and Samuel read a book they found in Samuel‘s book shelf which spoke about the ‘Babadook‘ monster: who hides in the dark areas of their house. Fears become superstition when even Amelia begins to feel the effect of Babadook and desperately tries to destroy the book. This is the nightmarish experience a mother and son encounter for the rest of movie; or in this case, story.
At first glance, The Babadook may sound like it’s a tale that meant to warn people not let children make creepy stories up into their heads. Although understandable, as a way of coping, it may also seem like it’s one of those old horror movies with children being influenced by a ghost. [kind of like Poltergeist] The monster that’s called The Babadook, comes off as having the potential of being a silly urban legend, such as Slender Man, [I am so tired of Slender Man] that is destined to be flooded with it’s own online stories, or simply just another horror monster, but what makes the film surprisingly effective is that it has a different plan for itself than “just scaring the audience.” More than anything, it may as well be a character study of a mother who is having a hard time moving on after the tragedy she’s been through and trying to raise her only son. It is a slow burner, as the real horror doesn’t come out that quick, when it comes to the characters we’ve already been introduced to.. it’s already built itself up as a study high. The tension you come to feel as the movie progresses is just award for being caught up by the core story line.
One thing that is important to note is the Babadook himself. When we actually start to see it, we notice it has an almost ridiculous design and his story is told well by a twisted storybook with wonderful illustrations. It almost feels like the movie is trying to explain that he isn’t the point of the film.. that he’s basically Amelia‘s “coping method” of sorts. The pacing of Amelia‘s life may move too fast within the film, but the sadness and deprivation beneath those regular troubling days are noticeable; you can tell that she’s struggling with Samuel, that she still isn’t over the loss of her husband, and that the plot is mostly concerned with Amelia finding a way to overcome Samuel‘s behavioral issues and her memories of accident; rather than dealing with this supernatural threat. What I’m trying to get at, is that even if there’s a “monster” tormenting this family, it still feels more like they’re being tormented by life, and the “monster” is their grievance personified.
This is where I sound like I’m complaining – at least, on behalf of some people. The thing about The Babadook is some horror fans might get disappointed for not giving The Babadook monster enough of the characterization he seemingly deserves. [I’ve heard this complaint a lot] Even if it is a lot more interesting to follow than his tricks and angry monster feelings, that is why I keep claiming that the the movie is best described as a gloomy story about a mother and a son who are desperately fighting to keep a hold of themselves and promise to protect each other from the opposing odds; even if this promise doesn’t always apply, The Babadook is more than just another horror film. While it still has the right amount of admirably campy scares, which I absolutely love, the film often explores to the larger and much affecting side of the story, making it more depressing – rather than terrifying..though it is terrifying in it’s own right.
So like I said in my original review of The 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; especially one from the last year! The Babadook is a film that is more 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. [like 99.9% of horror films now a days] 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 touch it..don’t even look at it: Chances are, it’s probably not such a good idea.
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THANKS FOR READING.