So very disturbing, but extremely well done, Australia’s “The Babadook” may be one of the creepiest movies ever. And it’s that excellence which makes it so horrific and terrific at the same time.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook” is the story of widowed Mom, Amelia (Essie Davis), and her young son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Amelia’s husband died in a car crash while driving her to the hospital to deliver Samuel. Since then it’s been just the two of them. Amelia works as an orderly and seemingly has few friends except for a tenuous relationship with her sister who has a daughter the same age as Samuel. Samuel is in first grade and it’s his increasing aggressive behavior that has driven many of their friends away and has strained her relationship with her sister.
Samuel has a hard time sleeping soundly. He sees monsters everywhere. He has absolutely no problem speaking exactly what’s on his mind and what’s often on his mind is very weird and dark. He is very smart for his age and to counteract the monsters he “sees,” he has developed some fairly dangerous weapons to kill them. Amelia is in the habit of reading him stories before he goes to bed. One night the two of them read the pop-up storybook “The Babadook.” In retrospect that might not have been the best thing to do. Samuel becomes obsessed with “Babadook” and not in a good way.
What makes “The Babadook” so terrific is its acting. Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are astounding in their range. From where did they find Wiseman? He is absolutely fantastic. His Samuel is such an obnoxious child at times, that in the beginning you almost want go to the screen and hug his mother to let her know she’s not alone. He is terrifying in his earnestness that someone or something is out to get them and he will do anything to protect the two of them, most especially his mother. Wiseman does an amazing job in conveying how smart and resilient Samuel is. Davis is equally convincing as the mother dedicated to the well-being of her son while being at her wit’s end in trying to figure out how to help him. Her portrayal of the over-whelming fatigue Amelia feels in raising Samuel is palpable. Her character’s transformation from soft and gentle Mom to something else entirely is beyond spine-chilling.
“The Babadook’s” script and direction is very sharp in its story-telling. Some of the film almost looks black and white and that adds to the movie’s sinisterness.
Jennifer Kent has come up with a horror film for the ages. By all means see it, but a viewing while it’s still daylight outside is highly recommended.
“The Babadook” is in limited release and available On Demand.
3 ½ nuggets out of 4