Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinnery
When this film was released in 2014, it came as an unexpected breath of fresh air in a rapidly stagnating genre, an original and boldly delivered creeper with an old school visual flair to match its considerable horror chops and made a modest $7.5 million off a $2 million budget, not bad for a self penned independent film from a new director.
The Babadook was one of a series of films in recent years that signalled a seismic shift in horror movies, too often in the genre in recent years has writing been thrown out of the window for the sake of a quick turnover and easy returns, not with The Babadook. The Babadook was written & directed by Australian director Jennifer Kent in her directorial debut, a remarkably confident and assured debut at that I may add, she handles The Babadook like a seasoned professional. A widely allegorical tale in a number of ways, be it the fear of losing ones mind or the worries that go hand in hand with single parenthood and the Babadook itself almost being the physical manifestation of Amelia’s unresolved grief of her husbands death, always there, always growing and seemingly not dwindling in its presence, The Babadook is certainly a more thoughtful affair than most horror movies. The Babadook is also a film that wears its influences on its sleeve, be it nods toward films such as The Shining with respects to the lead characters mental deterioration, in respect to The Babadook itself there are parallels with German expressionist cinema of the early 20th Century such as The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari and even Lon Chaney’s sinister antagonist in London After Midnight for the look of the beast, Kent certainly knows her cinematic onions so to speak.
There are wonderful turns from the cast, in particular leads Essie Davis & Noah Wiseman who’s mother/son relationship is completely believable, Davis’ slow decent into mania is palpable and sympathetically delivered, the struggles of single parenthood and unresolved grief making for a powerful performance. Wiseman makes for a decidedly troubled and at times downright creepy acting partner to Davis as her traumatised son who’s understandably not too fond of bedtime stories as the film progresses.
The Babadook is a fantastic modern horror, well written, conceived and shot by debut director Kent and full of the prerequisite chills one would expect and testament to changing attitudes to horror in recent years of becoming much more thoughtful and considered affairs. If you are a lover of horror cinema and haven’t checked it out, for god sake, LET. IT. IN!