In recent years, horror films have been heavily criticised for their reliance on CGI in an attempt to scare audiences. “The Babadook” is a refreshing reminder that the horror isn’t just about what viewers see on screen, but what they feel.
The film follows young single mother Amelia (Essie Davis), who is struggling to cope with her six-year-old son’s fear of imaginary monsters. After reading a mysterious children book called “Mister Babadook”, Samuel (Noah Wiseman) becomes entrapped by a nightmare fantasy, which also rubs off on Amelia – who believes the monster is harassing her family.
Unlike other horror films, The Babadook shies away from going down the demonic child route we’ve seen countless times before, instead choosing to focus on the psychology of Amelia – who is excellent portrayed by Essie Davis.
Over the course of the film, viewers see her go from a strong, independent mother, into a woman on the verge of breakdown. It’s no coincidence that she is surrounded by mental health problems – working at a nursing home’s dementia ward and living next door to a Parkinson’s sufferer.
Whereas there are one or two jumpy moments, the main scares in The Babadook come from the monster’s sinister presence, which is incredible unnerving, even when he is nowhere to be seen. Director and writer Jennifer Kent uses key lighting and vibrant camera work to upkeep the mystery of the Babadook for the 93 minute running time.
Despite this, The Babadook does contain the traditional horror clichés that continue to dominate the genre. At the film’s heart, there is still a possessed object, a dysfunctional family and a somewhat conventional ending. While they are executed well, The Babadook isn’t as revolutionary or genre-defying as viewers would have hoped. Needless to say, this remains a strong contender for the best horror flick of 2014.