*Blog editor’s note: In a crazy coincidence, I received two reviews from different staff members about the same movie. Instead of picking just one review, I’ve posted them both here. Enjoy the different perspectives.*
Horror films are more popular than ever, but while the contemporary kind may be flush with cash and graphic imagery, one thing that most of them lack is any sense of true horror. That’s what makes talented director Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook really stand out from the crowd. In a sea of mediocre startle-fests marketed as horror, Kent has crafted a horror film that not only tries, but also succeeds, at being unsettling.
After the death of her husband years before in a tragic car accident, Amelia (Essie Davis) is forced to raise son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) largely on her own. With his frequent emotional outbursts and challenging behavior, Noah is a source of stress for his mother, teachers, and acquaintances. When Amelia inadvertently finds and then reads a strange storybook to Samuel about a dangerous monster called the ‘Babadook’ which lives in dark areas of their home, it’s no surprise when Noah reacts poorly. However, things take a turn for the peculiar when Amelia begins sensing an ominous presence that grows more disturbing with each day.
More than any other director in recent years, Jennifer Kent understands the horror genre and what it takes to truly frighten rather than merely startle. Unlike recent strikeouts like Ouija and Annabelle, The Babadook doesn’t employ the usual Hollywood bag of lazy tricks to generate scares. Instead, Kent’s directorial style uses storytelling and atmosphere to compensate for the films deficit of loud noises. The effect is one of frightening anticipation, where the audience isn’t given the typical set of signposts telling them when it’s okay to relax. Moviegoers looking to see big CG monsters might come away disappointed with this one, but fans of more chilling horror should be quite pleased.
Amelia lost her husband Oskar in a car accident the same night she gave birth to their son, Sam. Today Amelia has gotten though her grief by forgetting Oskar ever existed. Instead of dwelling in the past, she must focus on the present, where Sam is becoming increasingly difficult to handle. When he gets expelled from his school, Amelia is unsure of what to do. Her helplessness turns to terror when she finds a book in Sam’s room titled Mister Babadook. After reading the book, Sam’s behavior worsens. He claims he is being haunted by Mister Babadook. Ever a master of denial, Amelia will deny her son’s delusions as vehemently as she has denied her husband’s existence for the past six years.
This is an excellent horror movie. The story is both tragic and frightening, primarily because the character of Amelia is so relatable. The most phenomenal part of the movie is by far the acting, Essie Davis (Amelia) and Noah Wiseman (Samuel) are brilliant actors, you could almost say they were “scary good” in this movie! There is no great revelation at the end of this movie, and I was left with more questions at the end, but I think this contributes to the beauty of the film. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone.