Baddie – The thing in your closet tho.
Lesson – Let it gooooo let it goooooo can’t hold it back any moreeee.
The Babadook is lauded as one of the best (maybe the best) horror movie in the last few years. It’s received tons of hype and positive reception in the last few months as it plods its way around limited releases and festivals. I had the opportunity to check it out at the Alamo Drafthouse, further cementing that particular Texas institution as one of the best things in San Antonio, bar none.
Essie Davis (!!!) plays Amelia, a single mother with a somewhat active child, Samuel. Amelia’s husband, Oscar, passed away via car crash while taking her to the hospital to have Samuel, and it becomes pretty clear that there’s a bit of resentment there. Not helping matters is creative six-year old Samuel, who is: scared of monsters, somewhat emotionally fragile, and, coupled with the normal imagination of a six-year old, a handful. He gets himself expelled from school, and puts a strain on already strained Amelia. Then a book shows up, The Babadook.
Let’s be pretty clear here – The Babadook is terrifying. I watched a decent amount of it through some variation of my scarf and fingers. For the sake of context, I don’t scare super easy, but I am quite happy to sink into a movie and let it do its thing. I watch movies with the best of intentions, which is sometimes hard for someone who reviews (almost exclusively) movies like Piranhaconda. The Babadook is also an Australian movie, and longterm readers know that I love me an Australian horror, and this is certainly no exception. Seriously, Australian horror movies. They are the best thing.
The set dressing is impeccable, mimicking the storybook itself and shots that feel claustrophobic. Featuring a medium Victorian house painted various shades of grey and just enough props to make it seem like a genuine home, The Babadook excels at the most superb execution of scare tactics I’ve seen in a longgggg time.
For one, the name ‘Babadook’ is onomatopoeic, representing the knocking sound the creature makes, ‘Baba, dook dook dook,’. The first twenty minutes of the film is quiet and significant, featuring sharp and clear sensory experiences, largely auditory. Subconsciously, the audience begins to pay attention to the noises of the film, and from that point on the noises are pivotal. I’m choosing to believe this was hyper-intentional on the part of the filmmakers, playing off of the sound effects-based monster concept, and the sound design team absolutely killed it.
The tension that is built into this film is absolutely astounding, and the pacing impeccable. I loved that there were palpable moments where I was (literally) on the edge of my seat, and then a swift tonal change could let me relax, even just for a moment, before ratcheting back up the tension back up to eleven. I love adrenaline roller coaster rides like this. Unfortunately, there was a gentleman a row in front of me that insisted on saying things like, “Oh hell no,” and “Oh sh**!” whenever something dramatic happened, which is a surefire way to yank me right out of my horror headspace and into reality. I tried not to let it impact my viewing, but I maintain that it would have been a much more serious viewing had it not been for our loud friend.
You may have noticed the plethora of ‘!’ marks after Essie Davis’ name, which is because I’ve been marathoning “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” over the last few weeks because it’s AMAZING and it stars Essie Davis. This was a completely different character, and the dynamics between Davis and Noah Wiseman (Samuel) was really fantastic. She was able to portray a mother who is just genuinely trying to get through. She loses her patience, but the audience forgives her, because Samuel’s monster problem is genuinely taxing. And, y’know, when the Babadook shows up it’s pretty unnerving. The Babadook is additionally frightening in the same way as Oculus, where a child is confronted with loss of parent.
I have a personal theory that the Babadook is manifested from Amelia’s reluctance to release the memory of her husband and therefore the inadvertent hostility towards her son It grows as her strength wanes and her resolve weakens due to Samuel’s increased antics and her eventual lack of sleep.
The Babadook is Jennifer Kent’s directoral debut (minus a short from 2005), and I am SUPER amped to see what she does next, because this was really an excellent movie, well written and well executed. If anyone is wondering if I have complaints, my only complaint is that on a rare occasion, the sounds didn’t mash up with my serious sensors, aka it got a little goofy. I’m personally still digesting the end, so if you’ve seen it you’ll probably know what I’m talking about there.
Sorry about the hiatus everyone – some personal issues + surprise surgery = no reviews.