The Babadook Review
Reviewed by Jordan Smith.
‘If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook.’
It’s that time of year again! When the swarms of great and good films are flung at us all at once and many of them are usually historical biographies of famous people’s lives that have uplifting or tragic stories to tell; films with massive ambition or massive points to make. This is the Oscar Bait season. Deny it if you want, call it silly if you will, but you cannot deny that this is the repeated pattern every year. These sorts of films are basically made from the outset with the intention of winning the big industry awards.
But this time we start off with something that falls into the smaller, yet not impossible, category. Films that come out of nowhere, that happen to be so good that they (although no ‘Oscar buzz’ is surrounding them) end up getting nominated anyway; because they’re THAT good. And this could be the first genuinely great horror film for a very long time.
There’s a bit of debate about how may ‘true horror films’ have been nominated for awards. The Sixth Sense and Black Swan are counted in different categories as well as horror. People often argue that they are closer to Thriller films than horror. But, looking through the lists and reading about ‘Oscar Bias’ it’s clear that horror films have never been popular at the three ‘big’ award ceremonies; the Oscars, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. I would say that there is a fair amount of bias towards certain genres. But it certainly doesn’t help that the majority of horror films are perceived by many critics and audiences to be a bit… awful.
In any case, The Babadook wasn’t even on my radar until a couple of weeks ago. It came out of nowhere. I was in a lecture when my lecturer told us about this brand new horror film that was reportedly doing incredibly well with critics (over 90% critical ratings on rotten tomatoes and IMDB). So, having watched trailer and thinking that it was pretty fantastic, I decided that I’d better watch the film since I’m a fairly harsh critic of horror films and I’m rarely interested by them.
‘Ba-ba ba dook, dook, dook.’
The Babadook isn’t quite what you’d expect from a horror film. I’d expect it from a psychological thriller film, but not from a film that classes itself as a straight up horror. This is my dream horror film. What I want all horror films to be like. Minimal jump scares, builds terror gradually and instils a sense of dread within you, without resorting to cheap scares (damn those cheap jump scares); and tackles actual issues.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent (and without venturing into spoiler territory), The Babadook tells the story of a mother, Amelia (portrayed by Essie Davis), coping with the loss of her husband and her troublesome young son, Samuel (portrayed by Noah Wieseman), who has behavioural issues. The main crux of the film is how Amelia copes with these issues that she already has, as well as the introduction of some sort of demon that has come from a book that has randomly appeared in their house. ‘Mr Babadook’ isn’t real, or so Amelia thinks. But Samuel has always had a fear of monsters and it soon occurs to Amelia that he may have every reason to be afraid…
Apparently this film started out as a crowd-funded film. So I suppose I have to thank the people that saw that Jennifer Kent had vision and incredible talent and decided to back the project, that being the case. Kent has clearly been influenced by events in her own life because she has such an understanding of the issues that are tackled within the film. This has likely helped her with her directing of Essie Davis and how she interpreted the character. Essie Davis gives one hell of a performance. Unfortunately I can’t say anything more without moving into spoiler territory. Also, massive props have to go to newcomer Noah Wieseman. He’s an incredible young actor and I sincerely hope to see him more in the future. In fact, I hope to see all of the people in some new project in the future. They’ve created one heck of a film with an awfully touching and thought –provoking story.
‘I promise to protect you if you promise to protect me.’
I have to really stop myself from giving any teasers about the film for fear of ruining it. So, with that in mind, I’ll stop here. But for goodness sake, if this film is showing anywhere near you, go and see it! It’s better than last year’s ‘The Conjuring’, and that was pretty darn good. This one gets extra points for tackling real issues, the sheer intelligence of the writing and the originality of the film. I’ve said this before but… horror films, take note. This is how to do ‘em right! Hell, this is how to do films right full stop.