Starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. Rating unavailable.
Is The Babadook a slow-burning, Repulsion-style psychodrama depicting a lonely woman’s paranoid descent into madness? Or is it more of a flat-out horror show that introduces a freaky new being—the titular pitch-black, long-taloned, top-hat-wearing demon thingie—to the fearscape?
Who cares? Fact is, it’s the most moving and memorable fright flick of the year!
Aussie writer-director Jennifer Kent’s impressive debut feature follows the day-to-day routine of nursing-home worker Amelia (Essie Davis) as she struggles to raise her intense six-year-old son, Samuel (the remarkable Noah Wiseman). Sam is a hard-to-control kid with a wild imagination who’s obsessed with devising ways to protect himself and his mom from the “monster” he thinks is coming for them. He rigs homemade weapons that wind up either breaking windows or getting him in trouble at school. “This monster thing has got to stop!” declares his beside-herself mom, but of course it’s only starting.
It doesn’t help either of them that little Sam was born the day his father died driving Mom to the hospital. While the frazzled Amelia still deals with the tragedy of losing her much-loved husband—“It’ll be seven years!” proclaims her judgmental sister Claire. “Isn’t it time you moved on?”—Sam blames himself, thanks in no small part to insensitive taunts from kids on the playground. Even before the Babadook shows up to spook the shit outta you—seemingly coming to life from the ominous pages of a children’s pop-up book—the offhand cruelty of tiny humans ramps the tension meter up to 10.
With her own family seemingly against her—along with her demanding boss, Sam’s strict teacher, and the snooping child services—the sleep-deprived Amelia’s shaky mental state crumbles in time with the Babadook gaining strength and making its move from the depth of her (and the now-sedated Sam’s) nightmares. Forget Insidious and its ilk, The Babadook is where it’s at for supernatural horror in the home.