So, I spent the night with The Babadook last night...and it was amazingly unsettling in all of the right ways. Come...follow along...won't you?
Besides being a fun word that rolls off the tongue pleasantly, The Babadook is the debut feature from Australian filmmaker, Jennifer Kent. Now...before I get into the actual review...I would just like to express how completely ridiculous it is for The Babadook to be Jennifer's freakin' debut. Most budding filmmakers spend a whole career searching to make a film as good as The Babadook (I'm just gonna keep saying "Babadook"...I don't care...it tickles my soul)...let alone a first feature. So, bravo to her for not only a fine job directing but, also, for writing the entire story.
In The Babadook, we meet a broken family struggling with a painfully deep loss. Almost 7 years after the death of her husband (he died on his way to the birth of their child), Amelia (played by a mesmerizing Essie Davis..think Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream...she's that good!) is struggling with raising her deeply-affected almost 7 year old son Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman. The film presents Samuel as an annoyingly brash little child which effectively conveys his desire to desperately cope with the absence of this father while Amelia's own responsibility to raise Samuel is challenged by her own personal desires to fill her dead husband's vacancy. It is a strong dynamic to the overall narrative handled nicely by Kent's direction. Personally, I love horror films that deal with deep family struggles as it adds a strong multi-layered dimension...and this one certainly does all of that in spades.
As the story builds on Amelia's daily conflicts, we are introduced to the film's titular antagonist in the form of a malevolent children's book found on one of Samuel's shelves, "Mister Babadook"...a being whom if you make his acquaintance, he cannot be dismissed. This pretty much leaves poor Amelia and Sam in the state of fucked for the remainder of the film.
God, the icy creepiness of The Babadook once things really get rolling is almost palpable...a sentiment I haven't felt in the genre in quite some time. As mentioned above, Jennifer Kent does excellent work of original storytelling for her first feature. It is so good to see another female filmmaker exceeding in such territory. And not only that...but conceiving such a nefarious character out of an almost ludicrous-sounding namesake is absolute genius. I mean, upon first hearing of the film earlier this year I almost dismissed it based solely on the name. I thought it to be a bit kiddish and muppet-ish...so, I kind of ignored it for a bit. Until I saw the trailer. In retrospect I find the name to be a vital piece to the overall story...as it tricks the audience into succumbing to this dark, dark tale. True visionary story-telling on Kent's part.
The Babadook doesn't really employ any hot gratuitous nudity or excessive grue...but, it doesn't need to. It operates on its own terms and really creates a treat for the senses. Altho, I will say...for the Deviants in the house...that Amelia does engage in a little bit of the ole polishing the Irish pearl. Auditioning the finger puppets. Dialing the rotary phone. Anyone?? Feeding the bearded clam? Soaking the whisker biscuit?? No?? Squeezing the hairy peach? Two-finger taco tango?? Ok...I'll stop.
I can't really say anything bad about The Babadook. Maybe it's a bit slow? Perhaps the kid is a touch annoying. Honestly, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a single detriment to this haunting experience. I really dug the whole thing. I read a rather inept review somewhere (not that my run-on sentence filled review is some literary masterpiece or anything hah!) that mentioned an anti-climactic ending. I felt the climax to be the correct one as it was a nice way of having a broken family deal with something that will affect their lives forever.
Anyway, what The Babadook lacks in gore, it more than makes up in pure chilling fright. Especially some truly memorable hair-raising scenes scattered throughout the film which still haunts my nights. Fuck...I was almost afraid to walk to the bedroom once the credits rolled. I had to go audition my own hand puppet just to get my mood back in check, if you know what I'm sizzin'. Too much? But, seriously...go watch The Babadook...like, now! It is one of my personal favorites of the year and a dead serious addition to the genre that we all love. Jennifer Kent has created, not only a fun word to whip out in conversation...but, a hell of a horror film, as well. There's a new name in horror...and his name is Mister Babadook, kids. Goddamn, I love saying that word.
Thanks for reading,