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This review is practically spoiler-free. I would like to keep it that way, so please don’t leave any spoilers in the comment section.
The Babadook is Australian director Jennifer Kent’s debut with Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman as the main cast. The film has won several awards, including the ones of best film, best direction and best original screenplay at the AACTA Awards, the Australian counterpart of the Academy Awards.
Amelia Vannick is a single mother whose husband died in a car accident when he was driving her to hospital to give birth to their son. She has been trying her hardest to stay strong and take care of her son Samuel for six years, without reminding herself of what happened to her husband back then.
Samuel has been having a feeling that there’s a monster living in his bedroom. When he has his mother reading him a story from a mysterious children’s book he found on the shelf, it turns out to be a horror story about Mr Babadook. Once you know about his existence, he will keep following you and the more you deny him, the stronger he gets. He won’t stop haunting you until you wish you were dead, and there’s nothing you can do about it, because you can’t get rid of the Babadook.
Samuel is convinced that this Mr Babadook is the monster that’s been keeping him company in his sleep. His mother tries her hardest to make him realise the Babadook isn’t real. But as was already written in the book, he gets stronger the more you deny him.
The Babadook proves that there’s still some hope left for the horror genre. The film doesn’t use any cheap jump scares to keep its viewers interested, but is simply scary on itself. By never completely showing the Babadook, his appearance is left almost entirely up to the viewer’s imagination, which is often ten times more terrifying than anything achievable with special effects. The mysterious camera angles and sound effects create an eerie atmosphere as well.
There isn’t much to say about the actors, except that they did an excellent job. Both Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman were very convincing as mother and son and both managed to convince the viewer of the Babadook’s horror.
This isn’t a film purely intended to scare people either, but actually has a deeper meaning. The Babadook is a metaphor for Amelia’s grief. She doesn’t want to be reminded of the accident from six years ago and as matter of fact denies that it has ever happened. Denial is not a good way of coping with your loss, because the more you deny, the more pain you’ll feel. Instead, you should accept your loss and give it a place, because you may pretend it isn’t there, but it will keep chasing you for your whole life. You can’t get rid of the Babadook.
To conclude, horror fans who prefer a good story over – mostly predictable and clichéd – jump scares should definitely check this film out sometime. The film starts off rather slowly, but some patience will be rewarded. Even William Friedkin, the director of horror classic The Exorcist, has said he enjoyed the film: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook. It will scare the hell out of you as it did with me.”
The Babadook – Jennifer Kent
Causeway Films, 2014