The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Drama | Horror | Thriller
  • Director: Jennifer Kent
  • Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall


Amelia who lost her husband in a car crash on the way to the give birth to Samuel, their only kid, struggles to cope with her fate as a single mom. Samuel’s constant fear of monsters and his violent reaction to overcome the fear doesn’t help her cause either which makes her friends distance themselves. When things can not get any worse, they read a strange book in their house that talks about the ‘Babadook’ monster that hides in the dark areas of their house. Even Amelia seems to feel the effect of Babadook and desperately tries to destroy the book, but in vain! The nightmarish experiences the two encounter form the rest of the story.


  • “If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look
    You can’t get rid of the Babadook.”

    For a horror to be successful, there are several opportunities for hands. Either you use gore elements in such a way that blood, guts and all sorts of other slimy ingredients start dripping, slipping and flowing from the screen. Either an old known creepy veteran (vampire, werewolf or serial killer) shows up and during nocturnal activities scares the shit out of people. Or you use a busload of “from the underworld” derived demons, who take control of a weak person or some ramshackle building and should be exorcised by applying religious rituals what leads to objects flying around and an in foreign language speaking monstrous-looking possessed person. “The Babadook” has none of this. This subtle horror story uses dark corners and grim,sinister sounds. It’s a story that can be interpreted in different ways and in which the phenomenon of “The Babadook” appears by reading a children’s book which popped up suddenly in Samuel’s bookcase. It’s the same as in “Candyman” where the legendary figure Candyman appeared when chanting his name five times in front of a mirror or as in “Evil Dead” when the demons were released after a tape with ancient ritual texts was played.

    Six years after the fatal accident that killed her husband Oskar (Benjamin Winspear), Amelia (Essie Davis) is still processing this heavy loss and tries to make ends meet as a single mother, together with her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The accident happened on the way to the hospital when Amelia was about to give birth. A traumatic experience that disrupted her relationship with Samuel. You can be sure that Amelia is torn by guilt and her feelings for Samuel balances between affection and blame. Samuel also did not emerge unscathed from this life event and is anything but an easy boy. At a certain moments I assumed that the unruly and hyperkinetic child Samuel, was the thread in this horror. What a nightmare it is to raise such a hysterical child! The hysteria is also fueled by the irrational fear Samuel has for monsters, what leads to a daily ritual of checking closets and other spaces, the inability to control him, Samuel who can’t function in a normal way in a group with all the consequences and the sleepless nights. And when “The Babadook” even starts to wander in the dark corners of the house of this dysfunctional family, total insanity is not far away and Amelia is on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.

    The Australian writer and director Jennifer Kent manages to mix the well-known “fear of monsters under the bed”-item with traumatic life events and an emotional state of mind into a dizzying downward spiral that leads to total insanity. It’s not horror elements and terrifying frights that enables this, but the excellent performances of Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. Essie Davis plays an extremely complicated character who, as the film progresses, degenerates psychologically and needs to drag herself fatigued,depressed and hopeless through life. Kent clearly focused on the portrayal of this mother-figure and very minutely Amelia’s psyche is exposed. Noah Wiseman manages to portray Samuel as a very annoying, uncontrollable and confused boy with an obsession for weapons, which he needs to defeat the evil monsters with. This obsession gets him expelled from school and injures the snooty daughter of Amelia’s sister. With his bulging eyes and pale skin, he looks sick and obviously you have both pity on him and on the other hand he’s so unbearable that you would prefer to smack his head against a brick wall. Just as his mum wished to do at a particular moment. Would he be such a brat in reality than this performance is nothing special. Otherwise it’s a masterful acting performance. “The Babadook” is ultimately a kind of “Edward Scissorhands” dressed like a magician. A caricature as pictured in the inky pop-up book.

    “The Babadook” is not your average horror and was subtly elaborated. It can easily be called the most original and bizarre horror of the year. The seasoned horror fans will not find it truly terrifying and some patience will be asked from the impatient horror fans to endure the slow build up. But put that aside and you can enjoy an excellent psychological horror that will still haunt your thoughts for some time. It’s your choice to decide whether this film is an observation out of the perspective of Amelia or whether it’s a manifestation that arose from her psychological mess. I thought there were some hints that suggest that we are witnessing the nightmare Amelia lives in. Or “The Babadook” is just another bogeyman that can be placed in the gallery together with his colleagues.

    “Ba-ba-ba … dook! Dook ! DOOOOOKH ! ”

  • There always seems to be a common trend for the horror films that truly scare its audience. Some examples from the past several decades are films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Halloween (1978), The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007). They were all films with meager budgets but received positive reviews critically and box office draws commercially. They also had green lit sequels not many people enjoyed, except for the hardcore followers. There’s a subtle difference between making a film independently Vs with the help of a studio. Unless the studio really believes that the director knows what they’re doing, most of the time studios will intervene at some point and begin tampering with the director’s vision. This leads to cuts, edits, reshoots and changes that most directors do not intend on doing thus fully altering their dream product. Meanwhile for indie filmmakers, directors have a much more limited cabinet of tools such as money (mainly) and resources, yet there’s no studio to get involved.

    Making her directorial/screenwriting debut, Jennifer Kent heads this Australian horror film that demonstrates that most horror films continue to be more effective when made independently than working with big budget studios. The story is about a widow named Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) being stalked by an ominous entity known as The Babadook that’s making their lives more stressed than it already was. Being that there have been multiple times when films do poorly because the writer to the script was also the director, it’s surprising to see how this movie escapes most of those blunders. The majority of the surrounding subplots are presented for the right reasons and help the viewer understand how they affect the main characters. Also the writing barely, if any at all contains the typical horror tropes one would expect to see in your everyday mainstream ghoul flick. One area that stands out as none productive to the plot, is the subplot of Amelia’s coworker Robbie (Daniel Henshall) who initially feels like he wants to be with her but it is quickly dropped half way through. Once realized, it didn’t feel necessary to begin with.

    There’s also the case of continuity errors and why some things are left unchecked. Yet, these are things that usually happen in every film and it’s not the most abundant here. If there’s anything else that doesn’t make sense it’s the antagonist’s motives. Clearly heard in the movie, the character states “give me the boy”, but for what? What’s the purpose? Some backstory or mythology would be appreciated for such an iconic figure. This is it for gripes though, the characters are likable and the audience will care for them and the situations they are put into – specifically dealing with sweet neighbors like Mrs. Roach (Barbara West) and the cautious Aunt Claire (Hayley McElhinney). Even The Babadook (played by Tim Purcell) himself is somewhat likable because of just how strange and demonic the character is and how he goes about scaring the living daylights out of this family. The method that The Babadook goes about doing his business is not exactly the newest of things but it certainly is effective.

    Initially, The Babadook is introduced via bedtime story book that has pop-up figures and its own little nursery rhyme. However as the pages continue to turn, the images become darker and darker foreshadowing possible events. Mind you that’s just the beginning. The Babadook is a creature that loves to play mind games. Its movement is rigid, makes cockroach or cicada-like sounds and its voice is raspy almost like its speech being choked out. The design is also something noteworthy too, resembling that of a scarecrow. The violence is not hefty either. There are a couple moments that look painful but nothing that is on the dismemberment level. Jennifer Kent’s direction relies more on scaring her viewers by giving them minimal elements to work with. That includes just seeing things for a moment and then disappearing or focusing on a simple object that may have a bigger purpose. It’s those kinds of scenes that can give a viewer chills because of the insecurity that it generates.

    Radek Ladczuk as the cameraman for this production made good use of his surroundings. The house Amelia and her son live in, is exactly what other characters mention it as – depressing. It’s a house of melancholy colors that accentuate the mood and tone of the story ten fold. What’s best about Ladczuk’s work is treating the camera as if they were eyes. By this, if the camera moves in on a character and a sound is made, the camera stops completely. After a brief pause the camera moves again. It actually creates more tension in the scene. Ladczuk’s other method is not moving the camera at all. There are some shots where the lens just focuses on a dark hallway or a shadow of a stairway railing. It gives the feeling that there’s something else inside the house. The musical score composed by Jed Kurzel is surprisingly effective even though much of the film is silent. There are some intrinsic tunes provided by thumping timpani and bells. It’s a foreboding sound that will definitely create uneasiness. Plus, no jump scare stings!

    Rarely do mainstream horror films produce such chills when it comes to ghosts and midnight ghouls, but not here. It’s unfortunate that it still has some problems either having a useless subplot or motivations left unexplained but that doesn’t stop it in its tracks. With sympathetic characters, an iconic villain, unconventional cinematography, direction and music, this indie horror film surpasses several other horror properties popular studios have exploited.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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