The Babadook is a small budget Australian film by director and writer Jennifer Kent that took the horror world by storm last year. I may be a little late catching up with the film but since I’m three years late with an update, it seems fitting.
The film opens with a stylistic shot depicting a car-crash that is reminiscent of 2007’s Inside and, much like Inside, sets up the emotional landscape for the rest of the film. We are then properly introduced to our main characters: widowed mother Amelia Vannick and her unruly son Samuel Vannick; played by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. A slow first half hour teaches the audience that Amelia’s husband was killed driving her to the hospital to give birth to Samuel and that she has not been able to cope with the child’s or her own emotional issues. Samuel is obsessed with monsters and terrified of his mother dying, while also being hyperactive.
When a macabre pop-up book (designed beautifully by Alexander Juhasz) appears on her son’s shelf one day things start to take a turn for the bizarre. The mother-son couple begin a spiral into the dark depths of depression and psychosis which I don’t want to say to much about, even though everyone has seen this film by now. The performance by Essie Davis is one for the history books; she sells the depth of her character’s issues from beginning to end and is the highlight of the film by far.
The Babadook is a film that should grace the shelf of horror lovers the world over. It’s a slow burn that challenges the audience to look beneath the visual layer of the film to strike at what it really means.