The Babadook Movie Review
Written by Hamzah Sarwar
Released by Icon Entertainment
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent
2014, 93 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 24th October 2014
Essie Davis as Amelia
Daniel Henshall as Robbie
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight as Supermarket Mum
Noah Wiseman as Samuel
Tim Purcell as The Babadook
Craig Behenna as Warren
The Babadook crawls under the skin with a bloodcurdling menace; it unsettles with its uncanniness before spitting out a jet-black spray of venomous terror. Beneath its brilliantly woven fantastical elements, The Babadook is without question one of the most emotionally captivating, character-driven genre films to emerge in recent years. While being genuinely frightening, newcomer Jennifer Kent's superb screenplay works remarkably well as a profound yet metaphorical meditation on grief and the rocky terrains of coping after loss. It's a deeply unsettling slice of Australian horror that truly delivers on its creepy premise. Likenesses can be drawn to James Wan's Insidious, the execution of the traditional scare tactics are on point but it's that added layer of poignancy that cements the film as one of the most exciting horror entries this year. The lead performances from mother/son duo, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, are incredibly authentic and ensure that Jennifer Kent's The Babadook will be one of the hottest titles at Film4 Frightfest.
Set almost six years on after the tragic passing of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is faced with the task of controlling the increasingly challenging behavior of her six-year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Samuel is plagued by visions of The Babadook, a spectral monster emanating from his children's tale (Mister Babadook) that threatens to violently murder him and his unsuspecting mother. While dismissive of her son's fanciful antics at the outset, bizarre happenings begin occurring that test Amelia's resolve to keep hold of her sanity. It is an incredibly simple set up that works on every level; particularly thanks to the barnstorming turn from Essie Davis. She is nothing short of sensational and is at ease portraying the helplessly desperate mother through to the possessed neurotic. Her connection with the breakout child prodigy Noah Wiseman is The Babadook's crowning legacy. The youngster's vulnerable performance wouldn't look at all out of place when compared with the likes seen in Del Toro's The Orphanage, The Omen and even The Shining.
The Babadook's monster lurks in the pages of child's storybook and haunts Samuel's existence. The creature's insidious impact iteratively damages Samuel's psyche. He becomes detached, violent and is a symbol of isolation. It's as though the grief of his father's death has crystallized itself in the mutated form of the monster. It's a terrifyingly poignant characterization of an emotion that can seldom be expressed. The Babadook's sharply demonic appearance is clearly inspired by the likes of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street; when the disturbing voice is taken in unison, Kent has the makings of an incredibly creepy antagonist. While Amelia expresses concerns over her son's mental health, it's her eventual possession that sparks a blistering finale.
The mental breakdown of Samuel touches on important issues of child neglect and misinformed drug administration. It's a twisted tale that functions remarkably well as a psycho-drama but equally earns every scare through its atmospheric build up and pacing. There hasn't been a genre film that has pervaded those childhood fears with such ferocity since IT (1990). Sleep with the light well and truly lit.