I’ve been struggling through some personal and professional trials recently, and thought a night at the movies could help me take my mind off things. When a buddy suggested a scary movie, I almost immediately dismissed the notion.
Horror flicks recently have turned me sour on the entire genre, with such flops as Deliver Us From Evil and Ouija. Which is sad because I had a lot of excitement and hype built up for these two movies based on the “true events” angle.
After watching those two stinkers I can confidently say that the subgenre of “true events” is an automatic no watch for me personally. In fact outside of The Conjuring, I’m hard pressed to name another movie that could actually stand on it’s own merits, outside of the “true life” angle.
Outside of the fact that the film is somehow related or connected to something or someone that may or may not have happened or existed.
So going into The Babdook I fully expected the absolute worst kind of “scary movie” filled with jump scares and as boring and unoriginal as calculus. Instead I was treated to one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time, maybe even as far back as my childhood.
Entering the film, you’ll recognize some similar horror film tropes. Recently deceased family member, single mother in crisis, isolation and more. Father is survived by mother and son, who six years later find a book that changes their lives.
Instead of following any dumb cliche that would have turned me off however, this movie truly scared and disappointed me. I have a short list of things that completely blew me out of the water that I’d like to share. This list is why I loved The Babdook but wont be watching it again anytime soon.
**SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THIS MOVIE.
The Kid Worked
Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is the son of Amelia (Essie Davis), and he worked well in the framework of the movie. Instead of grating outbursts working against the character, his actions work in the plot. The lack of connection and chemistry that’s clear between Amelia and her son leave the “monster” in the movie a mystery, if only for a bit.
While I’m not normally prone to liking the child acting, in this movie he was a good compliment character.
The angle of parenting struggles came to life through Amelia, and it’s one that made her more relatable. It may not click for everyone, but it did for me and it’s a testament to Essie Davis who was simply phenomenal in the role.
The son is the complete definition in a child that is lost and looking for direction, and a parent who is either ill-equipped or unable to relate. This is the underlying current, the drumbeat if you will of this movie, that culminates in Amelia’s slow building insanity and possession.
I normally despise children actors in horror movies, but Noah Wiseman is excellent portraying the problem child that wants and desperately needs love and acceptance.
Damn was this thing creepy as all hell. As an avid reader to my own children, I also know the feeling of stumbling upon a paragraph that I felt was inappropriate. This is one of the many things that connect with me as a parent throughout this movie.
The silence in which follows as Amelia discovers the book isn’t very friendly was deafening. The tension is built succinctly through the use of the words on screen.
Her shallow breathing and her son’s frantic questions in the background provided the perfect backdrop.
The makeshift way in which the book returns, the way in which the animated book worked, the eerie, intense metaphorical images, all of it was awesome.
Jennifer Kent did a masterful job in transitioning you as the movie goer in this movie. She deftly diverts attention away from the somewhat generic boogey monster, to the struggle of Amelia holding onto sanity.
The ambience and score was also terrific, punctuating intense scenes that build until boiling over. Babadook or the “demon” is always lurking in the shadows until the third act, and thankfully there’s little to zero jump scares.
She’s also been an advocate for women directors in a sense, so kudos to you ma’am for your work.
Sadly however instead of leaving me questioning what is metaphorical and what is real, Kent spells it out for you. In this the movie completely dispels the suspense and pretty much kills any re-watching value.
Simply put, she is incredible in this role and perfect for this movie. Amelia is a multifaceted character, who is both repulsive and relatable in her parenting. She’s constantly off kilter and behind the eight ball, and looks as though she cannot continue on.
The weight of the “Babadook” is about Amelia and the overbearing weight of a single mother who cannot care for her son. Where as the traditional possession movie may involve archaic rituals and holy water, this is much more intense.
In this Babadook excels in conveying the sense a monster or demon that could prey on a household that seemed very real and relatable. Whether or not it’s truly a monster or Amelia’s insanity should have been left up to interpretation however.
What didn’t work
The ending to this movie sucked bad. It really should have dropped the last 20 minutes or so, because it seemed completely useless and awkward. The deft manner in which the movie guided you along came to a grinding, forced and unnecessary ending come the last stanza of the movie.
The length in which the movie goes to show you who the monster is, and how the family is happy despite it living in the basement is clunky… to say the least. I was invested enough in the characters to finish out the chore of watching this movie’s ending, but that’s why I won’t be watching it again anytime soon.
Amelia is mentioned as a writer in the movie, one that wrote childen’s books, making the idea that the Babadook is her creation completely plausible. Her madness and psychosis through the midway point of the movie has pushed her to the brink.
Is the Babadook real or does he represent Amelia’s past and pain that will never go away?
All the questions and scenes where you wondered what was metaphorical are shattered with silly ghost force grabbing a bowl of worms. Rather than leave you with some questions that want you seeking answers, the movie paints out a ridiculous portrait of the idyllic life Amelia and Samuel now enjoy by ritualistically feeding some monster.
The basement is a link to Amelia’s past and it’s obvious what the director wants to portray, just missed the mark with the ending however.
Enjoyed this movie still, would highly recommend it to anyone, especially horror fanatics. Dp yourself a favor and leave before the last 10 minutes of the movie and go home wondering who the real monster was instead.