Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Director: Jennifer Kent
Running Time: 90 mins
The Babadook is an Australian film about a single mother suffering from grief after the death of her husband, as well as serious anxiety as her son descends into near-madness, terrified by a sinister monster that lurks in their house at night and threatens the peace of their family.
This is a very well-crafted and massively intriguing psychological drama. It’s by far one of the most engaging films I’ve ever seen, and for someone who’s never been much of a fan of the horror genre, that was a really nice surprise. There’s a great central performance from Essie Davis, as well as fantastic directing by Jennifer Kent, which really adds to a very atmospheric film on the whole.
However, there is one major problem that, for me, prevented this film from being truly great. The first half is undoubtedly masterful, with a fascinating story, intriguing symbolism and a very clever, eerie atmosphere. However, the second half reverts from being an interesting and unique mix between psychological drama, social commentary and supernatural horror into just a supernatural horror story, which although it didn’t lose my interest, did not exhilarate me or scare me as much as I had hoped.
Let’s start with what I was impressed by, pretty much all of which came in the first hour of the film. From the start, this film grabbed my attention, with its intriguing visuals, subtle psychological horror, and the introduction of fascinating, but stressed, grief-stricken characters, which lent a very heavy atmosphere to the whole thing.
In terms of the story at the beginning, it’s more about the psychological trauma of dealing with grief, as well as raising a child brought up in distress after the death of a parent, whilst it also talks about the world of dysfunctional families, and the depths that some can fall into when in desperately sad circumstances, a really strong feeling that you get from this film.
However, it plays so well on the overall ‘horror’ image of the story. The Babadook is such a cool, eerie villain, and was absolutely chilling for me all the way throughout. The visuals create a very bleak look to the whole film, adding to the sense of desperation, whilst the directing creates fantastically subtle tension all the way through the first hour, which really unsettled me for quite a long time while watching this.
Also, there’s no faulting Essie Davis’ performance at the centre of all this madness. She brings across the character of a stressed and traumatised single mother so convincingly, but also makes the somewhat exaggerated character very easy to relate to, drawing you deeper and deeper into the story.
It’s only when this story takes a dramatic turn that it descends into a more generic supernatural horror. I know that the final half hour of this film is largely metaphorical, however the feeling that came across to me was not thrilling or exciting in any way, nor was it frightening, it just seemed like half an hour of repetitive, typical horror.
Overall, though, this gets a 7.6, because it is still a very well-worked film, full of huge intrigue and subtle themes that can get under your skin, but it did end up as a bit of a let down towards the end.