Title: The Babadook
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Release Date: January 2014 – Sundance; 14th April, 2015- US DVD
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, The Stuff of Nightmares
The Babadook Cliff’s Notes
As a widow struggles with her young- and very irritating son – she begins to fear that the monster in his closet might very well be real.
While I try to avoid the hype monster, there was no way to get around the fact that The Babadook was, by and large, loved by so many horror fans. Walking into this puppy, my expectations were, unfairly, sky high. Usually, this is a recipe for disaster. Luckily for me, The Babadook was exactly what I was promised and more. This flick knocked me around like a gerbil in a hamster ball being tossed into the center of the FIFA World Cup. And that’s a good thing!
The Babadook is really two separate stories that combine into a major horror masterpiece. On one side is the story of a mother, alone after her husband dies, who has to deal with the nightmare that is her son. We watch her struggle, not only with surviving, but with coming to realizations about her son and her role as mother that are both devastating and also never touched upon in a lot of modern life.
It seems strange to say that the part of this story that really pushes the envelope is the family drama, but that’s how the Babadook rolls. The Babadook shines a light onto a part of parenting that, often, goes completely unmentioned. I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve met who struggle with their children, and The Babadook tells that difficult story well. Unexpected, earth-shattering, and awesome.
But it’s a horror flick, right? Oh yeah, it is. And The Babadook does horror in spades. Every one of the crazy horror shenanigans lands right on target, creating a world of terror that is never second banana. What’s even more impressive, the flick does it without a reliance on gore or jump scares.
Nope, this puppy is all slow burn. And it burns oh so good. By the time things finally come to ahead, the slow burn had kicked my butt all over town and returned it back to its seat just in time to punch me in the face. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a horror flick this pure in its unrelenting pursuit of terror.
I know, horror movies don’t get nominated for Oscars, but Essie Davis should have been the exception. She provides a grounded, earth-shatteringly wonderful performance. Likewise, Noah Wiseman plays a very difficult character insanely well. I usually really struggle with child actors, but here I was struggling with his character and watching a fine young actor nail a difficult part. Grade A!
Kent’s first time out – yeah I know, right? – is a strong one. She crafts a story that is a beautiful family drama dealing with some of the major issues of being a widow and matches it with a horror movie that is all about the embodiment of grief. I don’t know how many Wheaties she was consuming, but they were all kinds of worth it.
Again, a major winner. The Babadook boasts a script that deals with some of the most painful things parents can go through, and does them in a beautiful, vicious way. Sure, the ending doesn’t quite match the killer first and second acts, but this puppy is willing to go to a place most people won’t even dream of.
This one’s not super bloody, and I don’t think that’s an issue in the slightest. When the red stuff shows up, it’s done well, but this flick is on a different level. On another note, the crew who designed and created the creature itself deserve a pat on the back, every day, until they’re eighty. The thing is terrifying.
So, this is a little weird, but the highlight of this movie for me has nothing to do with horror. The birthday party scene is both brutal and emotionally eviscerating. It’s the kind of work you don’t see in the horror genre. But it could only happen here. Devastating.
I’m not sold on the third act. It’s not that I didn’t love it – and let’s be honest, I was wiggling in my chair though most of it – but I was hoping for a touch more in terms of resolution. Very much like the recent Coherence, I was happy with what I got, but I wanted just a touch more!
Original horror is alive and well. The Babadook is a blindingly wonderful horror flick and, honestly, one of the scariest movies I’ve checked out in quite a while.