Most of you already heard of The Babadook, a phenomenal Australian horror movie offering a new twist on the old horror tale. On the face of it, there’s nothing new here as we follow a single mother and her kid in a big creepy house. And of course, there’s a book with a creepy character, Mr. Babadook, that’s going to soon cause a lot of problems. However, the execution of this highly refreshing and exquisitely dreadful horror movie is simply superb. The only other movie that I felt was as scary was The Conjuring. I vividly remember that same feeling of dread while I was watching it.
The reason why The Babadook is so scary is because it explores the most powerful emotion in humans, fear. It manifests all the scary things that could happen to you in real life and builds upon them. It twists and turns them into this atmosphere of utter terror. I mean, the movie opens with a distinctly personal nightmare of a car crash with our protagonist helplessly falling into her bed when she wakes up. If you’ve watched another great Australian movie, Dead Calm, you might recognize this theme. Life is sometimes hard and the existential dread is alone enough to make you slowly start losing your mental health.
Add to this a young kid you have to take care of and the burden seems to become too heavy. We see these events unfold from both perspectives as The Babadook offers a complete vision of fear. So all the things you were afraid of when you were little will be manifested. And all the things you worry and dread right now, as an adult, will also be present. To top it all off, Jennifer Kent, the writer, and director of this movie, gives the mother a job at a hospice center. This is an inherently creepy place where you can almost see death lurking in the cold and dark hallways.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of these hospice centers but I have and I can tell you they’re scarier than anything I’ve ever seen. You’re in this state of heightened attention and everything feels almost surreal. Every little sound, movement, or thought brings on a sense of dread and fear. It feels irrational but it’s also very real. Moving on, The Babadook will use all of these elements to create tension that’s going to keep increasing and increasing. What follows is a descent into madness, into a terrifying state where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not.
After the death of her husband Amelia Vanek is barely keeping it together. She and her son Samuel live alone in a big house that feels like a prison. Soon, Samuel starts behaving strangely and this behavior is intensified when he finds a weird book called Mr. Babadook. And then Amelia starts to hear strange noises in the house. It would appear that she even sees that monster from the book creeping through the empty hallways. However, this is only the beginning of her living nightmare.
Both the mother and the kid are still trying to come to terms with the loss of their father and husband. The feeling of grief was palpable in some scenes. The performances were fucking excellent and Essie Davis deserves an Academy Award. Noah Wiseman was also great as Samuel even becoming a meme in the subsequent years. So, I highly recommend The Babadook not just to all horror movie fans but also to those who watch psychological thrillers and dramas.
Jennifer Kent’s next movie The Nightingale is just as good, so you might want to check it out. Finally, since she’s the one holding the rights to the movie, there will be no sequels as per her wishes. She said that this is a very personal story, actually based on the experiences of one of her friends who was going through a similar ordeal.
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Ben Winspear, Hayley McElhinney
Fun Facts: The title of the movie, The Babadook has a special meaning. In Hebrew, ba-badook means “he is coming for sure.”