Babadook – an anagram of a bad book – is like one of those creepy German Gothic children’s books.
It has relatable well-written characters fleshed out by spot-on performances. Amelia is a single mom who is in dire need of a vacation in a secluded beach resort, but Essie Davis doesn’t make her character too mopey. Samuel is an annoying and clingy child that I wanted to chuck off a bridge, but Noah Wiseman showed that he’s just a boy who wants to protect his mum. Both clearly need therapy, but they’re doing what they can to thrive.
The script, cinematography, and editing create slow-burning suspense with memorable creepy imagery. Babadook starts as a naturalistic family drama then turns into all-out boogeyman terror. The movie puts its own spin on familiar tricks from the horror playbook, using shadow play, power of suggestion, and a good old-fashioned creepy score.
The result is a scary yet emphatic horror movie. If you’re not scared of the Babadook, you’re terrified for its characters. It has a subtle ambiguity that makes you aware that there is another side to this story. Is there really a monster or not? does it matter?
Babadook has conventional elements – tragic backstories, creepy tales, and questionable subjects – but places its own twist on a psychological horror story.
Babadook shows us that what’s really scary is a burden that never leaves and you’ll have to learn to live with it, so it doesn’t control you.
Babadook is a well-acted, creepy, and moving horror film with an empathic story and spine-tingling suspense.