The Babadook: Review

What The Shining did for fatherhood, The Babadook will do for motherhood. This Australian import is the first feature film from director Jennifer Kent and it examines both childhood terrors and the terror of parenting. Anguished and weary, Amelia (in a tour de force performance by Essie Davis) is struggling to cope after the death of her husband and the birth of her precocious child who is seemingly afraid of everything and yet increasingly aggressive. Then one night, a mysterious book arrives on a bookshelf and sets into motion a tug of war between mother and son, reality and nightmares, love and murder.

The deliberate pace keeps the chilling atmosphere grounded as the supernatural incidents begin to mount – and then Mr. Babadook shows up in wisps of shadows and silhouettes, appearing like German Expressionist demon straight from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This is a beautiful film with stylish transitions, an aural soundscape (again echoing The Shining) that send primal shivers down the spine, and shadowy sets painted in every shade of blue ensuring a gloomy  and dark undercurrent. 

Everything works and it's a tense, unsettling ride and while it never crosses into full out terror, it does eschews cheap scares or geysers of blood. It falls into the same category of Insidious, a horror movie that relies on psychological terror, minimal effects, open-ended storytelling that allows the audience to use it's imagination. This ultimately is a surprisingly moving story of loss, coping, and the perils of mental health, and easily the best horror movie of 2014. 


  1. At its heart, "The Babadook" is a story of mother and son, whose relationship ultimately determines whether they survive the demon - or die trying.

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