"If it's in a word or a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook."
Seeing as its Halloween I thought I’d review a scary film. This Jennifer Kent film looked like a suitable candidate for my Halloween viewing, if recent years have proven anything though horror films have become a bit lower key. Is it just me or do the 2000s lack a definitive horror masterpiece? The 80s had The Shining; the 90s had Silence of the Lambs. But so far we seem to lack anything for the 21st century as a whole. Here I may have found it. All I can say for my introduction is that my most uttered phrase during this film was, ‘HOLY S**T’.
Six years after the violent death of her husband Amelia is struggling to raise her troubled child Samuel. Her six year old son is terrified of imaginary monsters. The situation grows worse when he reads a story called the Babadook which personifies into his dreams and fantasies. Gradually Amelia comes to share his fear and soon becomes enthralled in the idea that the monster Babadook is stalking her family.
Expanded from a short film called Monster also made by Kent, this one has much more ambition and much more depth knitted between every stitch. There’s so much to enjoy (or not enjoy depending upon how easily frightened you are) about this film. As I said before by now horror films have resorted to blood and guts, bangs and smashes to scare people. The Babadook remembers that terror comes from what we perceive. It comes from the unusual and as long as it is executed correctly it can cause many a sleepless night.
Starting of course with that most primeval modern fear, what’s under the bed, it takes that natural fear and amplifies it to a higher level than I dare to perceive. It also remembers that horror films are made so much better when you understand the characters and care about them. If you do then you share their fears and emote with them. The story is poignant and heartfelt, with some genuinely touching moments that make you connect all the more.
It dives deep into the troubled waters that are the human psychological condition. It shares traits with traditional ghost stories, even ones we’ve seen recently like the equally fantastic Oculus. In fact, seeing as that used to be the best horror film of 2014, let me make a few comparisons. It’s sad to say that the Babadook is allowed to excel thanks to its bigger budget. It can get a few more scares out of the audience and includes an eternal sense of dread that lingers over you for the entire film.
It doesn’t rely mainly on special effects either. The entire atmosphere and colour scheme help to emphasise the eerie nature. There’s a lot of blue, black and grey (you were expecting blood weren’t you). It is very reminiscent of the horrors of early cinema that couldn’t even rely on sound to scare people. They had to use every single image and every action to generate terror, and that’s exactly what the Babadook does. It’s obvious that Kent knows exactly what she is working with.
They also seem to have created a true monster for the ages. The Babadook (or Mr Babadook, we have to be formal) is so scary not for his violence, or mystic powers. But the whole inevitable build up to his rampage makes even the smallest action seem massive. His power appears to be limitless and the manifestation of his entire being just induces fear from the moment his name is mentioned. Try saying the word Babadook in a normal voice.
The film is so beautifully executed that the supernatural elements are just a small part compared to the true psychological horror evident from the nature of this film. It’s stylish, refreshing and horrifically scary. I could write more but that would mean watching it a second time, and I might have to wait until next October until I’m ready for that.