I love horror movies as much as the next guy, who apparently just happens to be a “scaredy cat” so that says a lot about me then doesn’t it. I’ve always enjoyed select horror films, be it the classics that made Freddy and Jason famous or the modern classics like Scream along with the occasional film such as The Blair Witch Project that was different and made news. While the basis of any horror film remains the same, and the genre is huge with films being categorized from gory and cannibalistic to zombie apocalypse to character driven horror fests, every now and then something different comes along that changes the perception of the audience, like Cabin in the Woods did a couple of years back. The Babadook isn’t a genre changing film, but it is still frightening enough, in an unconventional way, to stand out.
The film follows a single mother as she barely manages to run her life having lost her husband in an accident on the day their son was born. The son, having psychological issues of his own, makes thinks harder for her, and slowly we see her anxiety and desperation rise just as a “spirit” called The Babadook enters their life through a children’s book.
Mind bending and not your predictable horror film, The Babadook is multifarious in its execution making is more of a psychological thriller with scares that are few and far between but an ever rising tension and suspense that keeps the audience ready to jump when need be. The film is however reminiscent of classics like The Shining and The Exorcist at times, but by no means does it do so blatantly, only giving as a familiar feel of the elements that made the two classics so successful.
Essie Davis as Amelia, the mother on the verge of a breakdown and Daniel Henshall as her son Robbie give brilliant performances. Daniel especially deserves a special mention for portraying a role that alternates between that of a normal kid to one with issues to a boy who is also experiencing the presence of the Babadook and the subsequent change in nature of his mom. While the idea of having a supernatural force that cannot be seen, but only experienced is much more frightening, the Babadook is made visible at times to Amelia and Robbie, but the audience is still kept in the dark mostly with only brief quick cuts that showcase him. While this works most of the time, after a while I expected to see the monster in its full glory but was deprived of this. But, it is also this lack of a more physical Babadook that gives the film its complexity leaving it to the audience to decipher the end, which mind you does leave space for a sequel.
The Babadook takes the horror genre and makes is more horrendous by placing a distressed mother and son duo in the middle of it all wherein the audience can’t help but sympathize with their desperation. In addition, it gives us a new villain that is more emotionally and mentally challenging with no apparent fixed goals making his presence all the more suspicious and frightening. As is the case with most horror films, watching it at night adds more thrills and shrills to the experience.