The Babadook, 2014
Directed by Jennifer Kent
Starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman
Amelia is a lonely and deeply stressed widow struggling to raise her deeply troubled young son Sam, who is often finding himself in bother at school and with other children. To add to Amelia’s troubles, it seems that she and her son are being haunted by a malevolent creature from a storybook, the titular Babadook, who seems to be lurking around every corner.
One of the finest films to come out of Australia and easily ranking among the scariest films of the last decade, I am of course talking about the 2014 horror hit The Babadook.
The acting from our leading actors is exemplary; Essie Davis is a sympathetic heroine as Amelia, struggling to cope with the loss of her husband, a grief only heightened by the presence of her son, born the same day his father died. Davis also makes for a terrifying monster herself, especially in the latter half of the film, as the stress of dodging a monster and raising a hyperactive child take their toll on her, growing increasingly manic and aggressive towards her son.
Noah Wiseman also delivers a great performance as Sam, a welcome change from the usually awkward performances of child actors in horror films; initially irritating, as I often find children, he quickly reveals himself as quick thinking and resourceful, knowing far more about how to defeat this monster tormenting him and his mother.
Of course, the real draw to the film is the titular monster, which wisely we never get a proper look at, just fleeting glances and sinister figures lurking in shadows. What makes the creature unsettling more than its dark appearance (which, to me at least, seems to resemble controversial comedian Jerry Sadowitz), is the suggestion that the monster may not be real at all.
The Babadook is instead possibly the product of the exhausted imagines of a parent and her child, or the physical manifestation of Amelia’s grief about the death of her husband which has come to dominate her life. Quite simply, the scariest monsters are the ones that emerge from our minds. At least, that’s my interpretation; and an interpretation shared by many other critics.
As mentioned before, the film is genuinely scary, thanks in part to its slow pace which draws you in, and the welcome absence of jump scares. Instead, the fear grows as the monster grows ever more powerful, with fleeting glances of the creature, horrifying nightmarish visions of murder, and possibly the world’s goriest children’s pop book. All mixed together, creating a truly unsettling atmosphere that makes your deeply uncomfortable and dreading what horrors are lurking around the corner.
The Babadook is quite simply one of the finest horror films of the last decade, and further proof that the best horror films are made outside of Hollywood.
With a pair of brilliant and convincing performances from our two leads, a tense and terrifying atmosphere that just builds with every minute and a truly horrifying monster straight from your nightmares, The Babadook is well worth sacrificing a night’s sleep for. Check it out if you dare.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★