The Babadook – Film Review

A haunting Aussie chiller destined to become a horror classic

When widowed mum Amelia (Essie Davis) reaches her wits’ end with troubled young son Sammy (Noah Wiseman) she’s hallucinating through lack of sleep and plagued by visions of his father who died a violent death in a car accident. Among Sammy’s bedtime stories she discovers a mysterious pop-up book and unwittingly summons a demonic poltergeist by speaking the words, “If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook…” Just like the Candyman and Sam Raimi’s ghouls in The Evil Dead, once you invite a beast into the world of the living it’s a bloody nightmare to get rid of. But where those films embrace the far out thrills of schlock and gore, The Babadook‘s insidious chills will get inside your mind.

Like all the best horror films it’s as much about what you don’t see that provides the scares. The tension ramps as we’re left wondering what’s real and imagined when Sammy and his mum fall prey to the terrors of the scarecrow-like demon. Wiseman gives one of the great performances by a child in a scary movie, or indeed any movie. His night terrors are truly shocking and we feel for his plight locked in with his increasingly disturbed, and possessed, mother.

Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent says, “We all know what it’s like to suppress difficult feelings and experiences. It’s something that fascinates me and it spurred on the writing and making of this film, which also taps into the fear of going mad.” It’s a rip-snorting fear manifested superbly by Davis who shows you don’t need to play the generic scream queen card to suck an audience in. Kent’s creepy flick may tread the same creaking floorboards as films like Sinister, but where they offer cheesy scares she crafts a genuinely unsettling drama about a broken family haunted by loss that’s destined to become a horror classic.

Details

Director: Jennifer Kent
Release date: 24 Oct, 2014