The Babadook (2014) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween
A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are up to day 10 of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature. For those of you who don’t know. We are aiming to provide you with a movie review for each day of October leading up to Halloween. Hence the 31 Days of Halloween title. Novel, eh? Today’s movie review is for the debut feature film of Jennifer Kent The Babadook from 2014. This is an Australian horror so here’s an obligatory plug for my list of 20 Awesome Australian Horror Movies.
I am going to be keeping my future classic reviews real short as Google has recently brought in a big change. Basically, any review of old content that has already been talked about is pretty much redundant. What can you say that is new about movies that have been out for years? Absolutely nothing so Google, in all their wisdom, deems it to be “unhelpful”. This is great for a lot of sites but not so great when you are releasing content based on opinion.
In the future, I will be focusing on reviews for movies that don’t already have a ton of reviews out there in the ether and putting together more niche articles. Right now, the site has taken a big hit and I don’t have an established reader base so putting out a ton of classic reviews would be akin to shouting into the void. I am not prepared to do that. I will get through this month’s feature and try to focus on more niche content in the future.
Following the story of a grieving woman, Amelia (Essie Davis), attempting to cope with life as a single parent after losing her husband in a car accident. The Babadook is a psychological horror movie featuring a haunting creature known as the Babadook terrorising Amelia and her son night after night.
There isn’t a tremendous amount to be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said. I feel like the absolute first thing that I should point out is the impact that The Babadook has had on horror cinema as a whole. The Babadook’s deeply metaphorical story of grief and the struggles faced by women while raising children has lead to an onslaught of this type of horror.
We have covered a bunch of movies that feature metaphorical monsters and allegorical stories and much of that is due to The Babadook. Relic is a really good example though it is one of many. The Babadook has done for metaphor heavy psychological horror what Paranormal Activity did for Found Footage. Whether this is a good thing or not is up for debate but it is here to stay.
Grief and Loss
The Babadook’s themes of grief and loss are easy to relate to. And the movie offers a perspective on parenting, especially from a woman’s point of view, that doesn’t get talked about often. It takes risks with its portrayal of a mother struggling and shows a side of having a child that is not foreign but is spoken about in whispers. The side that sometimes consists of resentment and regret.
This is the type of horror movie that absolutely couldn’t have been made by a man and it stands out for that. Jennifer Kent’s personal and affecting script and story demand attention and deserves tremendous praise for how effectively it works and how it speaks for a group of women that feel as though they can’t speak for themselves.
A Genuinely Great Horror
As a horror movie, The Babadook is extremely effective. It is scary in parts, consistently tense and features a pulse racing final 15 minutes. It also works on many levels as it is not simply about monsters and things that go bump in the night. It’s about that very specific dread that comes along with the human condition. The dread of not living up to what society expects of us and the dread of not being capable of managing day to day life.
Acting is absolutely fantastic. Essie Davis is tremendous in the lead role and does a perfect job of relating the trauma of Amelia’s situation. Noah Wiseman is talented way beyond his years. He is ultra confident and his performance really helps to highlight just how difficult Amelia’s life really is.
Special effects are minimal but some of the stop motion, to be honest, looks pretty hokey. I feel like the movie has aged a ton in just ten years. The creature design is extremely reminiscent of 30’s horror and also conjures up memories of The Judder Man. But some of the creatures appearances are reminiscent of something you would see on an a YouTube video. I am sure this is partly deliberate but I am not sure if it completely works.
Luckily The Babadook uses a less is more approach so the rather janky looking animation isn’t a huge problem. I wasn’t a fan of some of Kent’s shot choices. One, in particular, during the final few minutes is simply awful. The perspective work is awkward as all hell at times. This is a generally well shot film, though, despite this. The script is great and really gets into the nuance of Amelia’s extremely complex situation.
Final Thoughts and Score
I somewhat resent the boon in metaphorical monster horror that The Babadook created. But that doesn’t detract from how great of a movie it is. It is well acted, well directed, consistently tense and legitimately scary in parts. Its themes of grief and loss are important and its presentation of a mother struggling is a story that is repeated throughout the world but in extremely hushed tones. This is a brilliant movie and an important one.