Set in a faceless Australian town, Amelia is a single parent to her son Samuel, a six-year-old with roguish tendencies. He’s a spirited child with a wild imagination, obsessed with monsters and creating homemade contraptions to defeat them with. Initially endearing, it becomes apparent he’s more than a handful for his mother; the other children think he’s strange, adults think he’s dangerous and his mother battles to love him. When a book titled Mister Babadook mysteriously appears in Samuel’s room, it’s the beginning of a tense psychological adventure for both mother and child. Full of shockingly dark and graphically violent images, Amelia hides the book, only for it to return time and time again. So too do Samuels terrors of the monster. Their mundane house serves as a suitably gloomy backdrop and dressed only in drab greys and blues, it’s reminiscent of a Tim Burton production and is classically atmospheric.
As a sub plot we discover Amelia’s husband died in a gruesome accident while driving her to the labour ward, an event which has plagued her ever since. With Amelia’s mental health disintegrating, she starts to feel the presence of Samuel’s monster, which slowly consumes her. Could Mister Babadook be real?
Ultimately The Babadook is a depiction of a woman full of repressed grief slowly unravelling, and a refreshingly honest portrayal demonstrating maternal love doesn’t always come easy. With echoes of We Need to Talk About Kevin, the horror in The Babadook is as much the omnipresent loneliness as it is the scares. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, this is an impressive full length debut that benefits from having a woman at the helm. Noah Wiseman playing Samuel steals the show with a shockingly real and phenomenally animated portrayal for such a young actor.
Where The Babadook excels is in not taking itself too seriously. The movie is an exciting indie horror that loves to laugh at itself; it knows its flaws and embraces them. In an age where big budgets and extensive effects are the norm, The Babadook’s charm is being a tongue-in-cheek thriller with an ode to pre-digital twee horrors. The movie dances between being disturbingly creepy and equally moving. Its cut and paste art department effects demonstrate that to excel in this genre you don’t need excessive funding, just a chilling theme and emotional resonance.
The Babadook is released nationwide on 24th October 2014.
Watch the trailer for The Babadook here: