The Babadook is one of the most horrific movies I have seen in years. All I can say is thank you writer-director Jennifer Kent for making a film that is the essence of childhood nightmares. The Babadook is the thing hiding in your wardrobe at night, it is the thing under your bed, and it’s the thing knocking at your door, wanting to be let in. Whatever you do, don’t let it in, because you can’t get rid of The Babadook. This is a truly impressive film, marking an exceptional debut from Kent.
The Babadook tells the story of single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her young son Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman. Samuel is a difficult child, not only obsessed with finding monsters, but fixated on the idea of killing them. This obsession of Samuel’s leads to him creating a series of weapons which he can use to fight off the monsters and protect his mother. It is after Amelia pulls Samuel out of school (after he took one of his homemade weapons to school), that things begin to spiral downwards for the mother and son duo. One night, Samuel asks to be read to from a strange book called The Babadook. Rather than being a run-of-the-mill children’s bedtime story, this is an incredibly dark tale, detailing the ways in which The Babadook will seek passage in to your home. From that point onwards, strange and terrible things begin to happen to both Amelia and Samuel.
At first glance, The Babadook seems like a simple horror story; a family recovering from a horrible trauma are terrorised by a supernatural force. But, as the viewer delves deeper and deeper into this world, it becomes extremely clear that the movie is truly something unique. Kent should be praised for her ability to play off common horror tropes, twisting and diverting them into scenes of genuinely original horror, making this something all fans of psychological horror movies should see. One point particularly worth mentioning is the way in which Kent flips our perceptions of these characters. Nearly all of the characters are unreliable narrators in some way, which makes unpicking their actions an unsettling experience – something every good horror movie should endeavour to achieve.
Essie Davis, as Amelia, is an absolute tour-de-force. Her portrayal as a mother on the edge is painful and uncomfortable to watch; in the same way it is painful to watch a caged animal desperately trying to escape its bindings. Davis plays Amelia with a quiet, resonating resentment and Noah Wiseman, in his film debut, also delivers an earnest and powerful performance as the young Samuel.
The Babadook is one of the best psychological horrors to be released in the last few years. It is terrifying and horrific, and once the movie ended and the credits rolled, all I wanted to do was leave the small dark cinema to go and sit in the sunlight, reminding myself that it was all just a movie. If you are an ardent horror fan or just looking for a movie that will scare you and stay with you long after those credits roll, then The Babadook is a must-see movie.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10