Film Review – The Babadook (2014)
Considering the main releases this weekend are Gold (ugh), Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (UGH), and A Dog’s Purpose (UUGGHH), I thought it be nice to debut a new feature to MovieBabble, Netflix Reviews! In this new feature, I’ll discuss movies that are available for you to stream online from your couch so you can stay in for the night rather than running out to the theater to see a movie that will mostly likely leave you wishing for your money back. The following review of The Babadook will be spoiler free.
The Babadook is directed by Jennifer Kent and stars Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as Samuel.
Six years after the death of her husband, Amelia struggles to make it through the day. She is constantly disciplining Samuel and is ultimately depressed. Our two leads run into some more trouble after a children’s book entitled Mister Babadook shows up in their house. Once Amelia reads this book, things begin to unravel. While at first Amelia becomes frustrated with Samuel, she slowly begins to believe his hallucinations and the true terror that hides behind them.
The Babadook had a nice rise to prominence at the end of 2014. After staying way under the radar in Australia where it was made, the film began to get traction after overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics at the Sundance Film Festival. The film received such high praise that William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, exclaimed upon seeing the movie, “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” That’s certainly high praise for such a small scale movie.
Speaking more to the idea of this being a “small scale movie,” it’s certainly nice to see such a small production become beloved by some of film’s most esteemed minds. Blumhouse Productions has adopted this model of creating microbudget movies which we’ve seen just recently with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. Smaller movies, a lot of the time, is where a lot creativity comes out from filmmakers. They have to be frugal with funds for set pieces and must express the films’ intended themes in imaginative ways. With only a $2 million budget for The Babadook, I was interested to see how it’s scares would manifest on screen.
What I Liked
While The Babadook may not be the most “terrifying” film ever, it’s easily one of the more unsettling films in recent memory.
This film doesn’t really work without solid performances from our leads. I enjoyed the bait and switch element of this film in that you feel for Amelia as she deals with her disobedient son at first. But then, as the plot develops, you start to see that Samuel might not be that bad after all. This concept really speaks to the performance of Noah Wiseman who really plays off of that initial dislike for his character to gain sympathy later on in the film, leading to the movie coming full-circle .
In that same vein, Essie Davis is absolutely the rock of this movie. Her reactions to the madness circling in on her are truly haunting, she even reminded me of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining when she finally lost it completely and lashed out towards her son. Both characters descent into madness is a slow burn, but you as the audience slowly see the tension ratcheted up scene after scene which ultimately makes your skin crawl in uneasiness.
What I Liked…Continued
However, what really gives The Babadook its teeth is the Babadook as a monster and its implications for loss and the hold that it takes on people. Many will watch this movie completely from the surface as a monster and still enjoy it a good amount, but those who go looking for a higher meaning will be the people who are truly in fear after watching The Babadook.
This idea of a past loss coming back to haunt you in whatever you do, crippling your mind and making you incapacitated with dread and hate sends shivers up your spine. It’s in this idea that The Babadook turns into a real entity, making this “vessel” pertinent into our own lives. Any horror movie that can translate to your real life definitely succeeded in its intentions.
This movie certainly takes its time to get going (and even drags at times), but the payoff is so strong and creepy that it is certainly worth the wait. It’s really refreshing to see a movie set up genuinely unsettling scares and imagery that stays with you afterwards. The Babadook has a masterful use of forshadowing, and its payoff in one to be appreciated. Because of this, The Babadook gets an A. This movie is certainly better than any horror movie currently in theaters, so get comfy on your couch at home and get ready to not sleep at night!
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