Review - The Babadook

The Babadook (2014), NR, 93 minutes - I've never been a big fan of the horror genre, but despite that, it seems that in each of the last few years, there have been one or two films from the genre that I end up really appreciating. Two years ago it was Cabin in the Woods, in 2013 it was Mama, and it's looking like The Babadook will be that film for 2014.

The Babadook is an Australian film written and directed by Jennifer Kent about a single mother named Amelia (Essie Davis) who is trying to cope with her son Samuel's (Noah Wiseman) basic childhood fear of monsters. Each night, she checks all of the usual monster haunts to show him there are no monsters lurking about.  Then one night she reads him a bed time story from a mysterious pop-up book that he finds on his bookshelf called Mister Babadook.  His fear and paranoia increase dramatically and he begins acting out not only in school but in other social settings with other children such as his cousin's birthday party. Strange occurrences increase in frequency around the house and Samuel's behavior causes Amelia to stay home from work to keep an eye on him as no one else is willing to watch him. She begins to become more paranoid about the possibility of there actually being something in the house and eventually neither of them can get any sleep without medicinal help. Physically and emotionally worn down, hell finally breaks loose and we see if Amelia and Samuel can fight off the entity that has been haunting them.

Typical suspenseful horror tropes are used in The Babadook, but the film's strength is in the unique premise of the pop-up book, and the ability of both Davis and Wiseman to drastically change their demeanor at a moment's notice which adds to the uneasiness of the film.  It also helps that the viewer comes to care about Amelia and Samuel and their decline in day to day lifestyle as a result of Mister Babadook.

As one would expect there are a number of creepy and suspenseful scenes, but this is not a gory, bloody film. However, there is one scene that animal lovers will want to avoid: a moment that the pop-up book foretells proves to come true and even though it happens off screen, the implication is there and is quite disturbing and sad.

I'm not even sure where I first heard about this film, which is a little creepy in itself, but I'm glad I came across it. It didn't have a very widespread theatrical run.  I don't think it even came to theaters around here.  If it isn't showing at a theater in your area, no need to worry, it can be rented and streamed from Amazon.com. If you like suspenseful (as opposed to gory) horror, I think you'll appreciate The Babadook.











*****SPOILERS*****

- There was a crowd-funding campaign to make the actual pop-up book seen in the film. The campaign was extremely successful, raising more than enough for the book to be made. Unfortunately, I didn't learn of its existence until it had already closed. I'm a little bummed that I missed out, it would have made a cool companion piece to the blu-ray, which I think I'll add to the collection when it gets released.

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