Alas, the story takes hold of young Samuel who becomes convinced that this ‘Babadook’ is intent on harming them.
As you will have guessed, The Babadook revolves primarily around the two characters of Amelia and Samuel, both of whom were deeply scarred by the loss of Sam’s father. At first, you feel pity for this mother who just can’t get a break, and seems to struggle to get through every day without breaking down. Her son is problematic, creating dangerous contraptions to protect his mother from monsters. But once The Babadook is read, the roles take a strange reversal. Suddenly, Sam‘s attempts to protect his mother seem far more understandable, and Amelia begins to lose her patience with his monster fascination.
The film is very much a tug of war between Sam and Amelia’s perception of the world, and the Babadook simply plays on that. To an adult, the idea of a monster under your bed is preposterous, but to a child the idea is not unreasonable. As a viewer, you’re torn between choosing which of these worlds to accept; is Sam simply letting his imagination get the better of him or does his mother have to accept that perhaps the Babadook is real? It’s a psychological struggle that is intricately constructed to keep you guessing right till the end.
With a focus on two main characters, the acting in a film such as this has to be strong, and thankfully it is. Davis plays the full breadth of a mother on the edge with such finesse and toys with your feelings for her character. But the real show stealer is young Noah Wiseman, who at just seven puts on a superb performance as Samuel in his first professional screen appearance. A child as troubled as Samuel is a difficult role to tackle, but Wiseman manages to make the character really believable. More importantly, both Davis and Wiseman work brilliantly together to turn this film into something really special.
The Babadook has all the scares and chilling suspense a good horror should have, but its real success hinges on two strong and excellently portrayed lead characters. It’s a pretty film too, but it’s the finely acted, character-driven script that sets The Babadook out as one of the best horror films of the past few years.
The Babadook is available on UK DVD and Blu Ray from February 16th.
Review: The Babadook
By Ross Wildish - 5th February 2015
The mind of a child is a pretty damn scary thing. Their perception of reality hasn’t been refined through age, so it is way more accepting of any stimulus, positive or negative. A single image or sentence can have a profound impact on how that child develops into an adult. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that most people are pretty messed up, and when you look at the stories children read, or the things society exposes them to, you can’t help but be frightened for how that poor child must be experiencing the world.
This is the subject at the core of The Babadook.
Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single-mother struggling to rear her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), after the untimely death of her husband. An attempt to appease her son with a bedtime story goes bad when Amelia picks up a book she hasn’t seen before — The Babadook.
‘If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook’ — if this wasn’t a big enough clue that maybe this shouldn’t be read to a child with psychological issues, then the sinister pop-up images dark enough to make Tim Burton soil himself should be.