'The Babadook' Is A Surprisingly Deep And Terrifying Horror Film On Monsters And Motherhood
For folks like us who might enjoy watching horror films during the holidays (ahem Black Christmas), Australian movie The Babadook will be released during Thanksgiving week—and it's not your typical scary movie.
In writer-director Jennifer Kent's feature debut, she tells an often-told tale about a young boy afraid of a bogeyman in his bedroom. However, that barely scratches the surface of this richly-layered story. It also takes a look inside the difficult world of a single mother, struggling to take care of a young child while holding a 9-5 job and coping with the loss of a loved one.
We follow Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow whose husband Oskar (Benjamin Winspear) died in a car crash while taking her to the hospital to give birth to their son seven years ago. Flash forward to today, she's exhausted and lonely as she raises her 6-year-old Samuel (Noah Wiseman) alone. Although adorable at times (he's an aspiring magician and cares deeply for his mother), he's also a handful; he acts out in school and definitely does not play well with others. At one point, Samuel pushes his cousin out of a treehouse after she lambasts him for not having a father. Other children find him strange, and it might have something to do with how he can't seem to stop talking about a monster in his bedroom, and that he's been building weapons in order to protect his family.
Their home is always dark, reflecting the mood in the household, with gray and bluish-gray walls. Everything has a gothic undertone. One day, Samuel finds a mysterious pop-up book on his bookshelf, with illustrations that bear resemblance to something that would come from the minds of Edward Gorey or Tim Burton. The eerie book offers a nursery rhyme that warns the mother and son about terrible things to come, including horrific things Amelia could do to her pet dog and Samuel. The book talks about a creepy character, the Babadook—a malevolent man in a top hat and with Freddy Krueger-like claws—that you should never let inside your house.
After Samuel's fears escalate, he no longer sleeps at night, and in tow, his mother doesn't sleep a wink either. This slowly tears her down into a maddening state, and the film explores her psychological breakdown and at the same time, a demonic possession. It's equal parts Mommie Dearest and The Conjuring with a dash of German expressionist cinema (think F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu).
Although there are some questions in The Babadook we wish we had more answers to, including the ending of the film, overall, it still stands out as a smart and taut film that slowly builds up the chill factor until it reaches a boiling point.
'The Babadook' will be screening at Cinefamily on Nov. 26 through Dec. 2.