Every year, countless new horror movies are released, some in theaters but most via DVD and Blu-ray. Occasionally we get something original and entertaining, but, more times than not, it is a flick that is rushed and uninspired. That’s why when something good and original does get released, the word must be spread amongst the horror community. So, before we break into the holiday spirit, let’s check under our bed for The Babadook (2014).
In 2005, Jennifer Kent directed a 10-minute short film called Monster. It was well-received and got Jennifer Kent noticed in the horror community. However, it wasn’t the springboard to bigger things for the struggling actress/director. Then, in 2009, she began writing the script from the perspective of a parent and the real struggles of women in the role of motherhood. Once completed, Jennifer would receive $2.5 million from Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation to make the film. However, she would turn to Kickstarter to secure the remaining funds needed to build the sets. The goal of $30,000 was reached and production started in late 2012.
The story is about a mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), who is struggling as a single mother to raise her troubled son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Her husband was killed in a car accident while taking her to the hospital in labor. Samuel never has a good night’s sleep, believing there are monsters under the bed or in his closet. He builds weapons to fight the monster and protect his mother, but just comes across as destructive. He is a behavioral problem at school and Amelia’s sister no longer wants to visit as she cannot stand to be around Samuel. Amelia’s life is quite depressing, dealing with Samuel at home and an elder care facility during the day.
One night, Amelia reads a book called “The Babadook” to Samuel. However, this book is anything but a pleasant read, as it deals with a monster coming to life from the shadows. Despite all of Amelia’s attempts to get rid of the book, it keeps popping up, reminiscent of the Talking Tina doll from that classic Twilight Zone episode. As it turns out, the Babadook is real, gaining strength from people’s denial of it’s’ existence. What follows is a woman’s downward spiral in madness, also reminiscent of the main character’s descent in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion.
The Babadook is Jennifer’s vision to make the film a very low-fi experience. Although her desire to film it in black and white was thwarted by the studios, it really is a colorless film and that is perfect for the tone of the film. Special effects are kept to a minimum, with the focus instead being on a slow buildup to terror, something rarely done in films today. Jump scares are kept to a bare minimum and when they do occur, they genuinely scare rather than make you groan from being too predictable. Images of the Babadook are brief but damn effective. Then, we also have what the true meaning of the Babadook represents, taking the film to an entirely new level.
If I had any complaints, it is that young Samuel can be a bit annoying at times. However, that really is perfect because it draws you into the film, making you feel the despair that Amelia feels. The end result is easily the scariest movie of the year and one of the best horror flicks in recent years.
The Babadook has made the festival rounds earlier this year and is now available On Demand. I highly recommend viewing it. It will easily make my top three of first-time home video flicks this year. So, before you starts roasting those chest nuts, have one more belated Halloween treat. Check out the trailer, then head over to the main website and pre-order your copy of the book today.