If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of … The Babadook
These cryptic words sum up one of the strangest and most original horror films I have come across lately. It at times gets under your skin and makes you question the reality that you think you know. Then that reality falls apart and something creeps into its place…
That’s the Babadook.
The plot surrounds a widow and her troubled son who are both psychologically healing from a fatal accident that claimed the life of Amelia’s (Essie Davis) husband as they were on their way to the hospital to birth their child. Her 6-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) survives but the trauma of what happened to his father leaves him ‘disruptive’ and sometimes uncontrollable.
After his school decides he needs some time at home to ‘adjust’, he is left to his imagination and a very frazzled mother. She cares for him with loving patience and looks for monsters under his bed. Amelia reads to him to calm his over active imagination.
Then one night a mysterious red book called “Mister Babadook” presents itself with his collection of children’s stories and this is the one Samuel wants to read. His mother begins but as the story unfolds its plain to her that the book is about a monster who wants to threaten them. He wants to be seen.
She tucks the book away but soon finds that its too late. Sam has latched onto the idea that this monster called Babadook is out to ‘get in’ and kill them. His fears start to manifest as his exhausted mom starts to see and hear the monster that the book warned about.
The horror of this film is very psychological and surreal at times. The house itself even seems to transform into something evil that is plaguing mother and son on different levels. Sam suddenly becomes the one that must save his mom from the beast as Amelia slips into madness.
Directed by Australian actress and filmmaker Jennifer Kent, who worked on a few shorts for various shows, “The Babadook” is by far her break out role. Her use of isolation and drama infused with the mysterious and just plain creepy makes the film stand apart from the usual jump scare film.
This one works on you slowly and puts you right where the monster is whether it be literal, psychological, or both. It definitely stays with you and I felt the need to give it a second watch to try and understand the complexities of its unusual and transformative nature.
I rate this one as a solid ten for originality and hope that Kent sticks with horror as she brings it to new levels of strangeness that lingers long after the film is finished.