The Babadook Movie Review
One of the most critically acclaimed horror movies of 2014 is The Babadook, an extremely well acted and creepy ghost story that isn’t quite as unique and groundbreaking as some people claim.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the movie has a terrific and chilling premise: a young boy finds a children’s book about a “friend” who lives in the closet. The book (which you can actually buy) starts innocently enough, but by the end of it, basically states that a monster is going to kill you.
Yet another reason to screen books before reading them to your children.
What occurs next is essentially what happens in so many other haunted house movies--the boy develops an invisible friend, he starts to act very strange, and his single mother realizes that the invisible friend isn’t so imaginary--but no one believes her.
What sets The Babadook apart is a combination of Kent’s gritty direction, terrific performances by Essie Davis and young Noah Wiseman and the book itself, which turns something as innocent as a children’s book into a source of terror. The book’s art is creepy beyond belief, and its words even more so.
You don’t find a lot of stellar performances in low-budget horror movies, but Davis delivers one of the year’s best of any genre: as a frantic, single mother barely holding onto her own sanity, Davis brings a sense of profound realism and relatability to the production. Wiseman is perfectly cast, too, and his performance shouldn’t be overlooked.
Despite all this, there isn’t anything particularly new about The Babadook. Given expectations, the climax is a bit disappointing, even a cop out. Could Kent have figured out a better, or at least more interesting, way for her protagonists (spoiler) to defeat the monster? I don’t know, but I wish she had. On the flip side, horror movies don’t need to be unique--they just need to be scary, and effective, and The Babadook certainly is.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.