Review: THE BABADOOK

Babadook-Poster_1390546434As much flack as it gets from the academy, “serious” film buffs who think it’s beneath them and god knows who else, the horror genre is by far the most intelligent one of them all. Sure, there are more than enough bad entries thrown out there for Walmart $5 bin consumption, but on the flip side, it’s the one genre that can give you a story and characters to follow and inject them into the most horrific of situations, allowing you to take that journey with them and live through the horror. It’s also a genre that can take a simple story and add so many layers to it, that it becomes something more than what it, on the surface, seems to be. Jennifer Kent’s wonderfully crafted film, THE BABADOOK, is exactly that kind of film. A layered, very intense look at fear, loss and how both can consume you until barely resemble yourself.

Following an accident that leaves her husband killed, Amelia has more on her plate that one would hope. Stressed out, overwhelmed and in emotional pain regarding the passing, her hands are full enough, even without her young son Samuel exhibiting his ways of dealing with it all. While Amelia keeps her pain and sadness closed for the most part, Samuel deals with things in the most opposite of ways. He’s loud, prone to have tantrums, and somewhat violent.

Already having an incredibly hard time dealing with Samuel’s misbehaving and acting out, things become infinitely worse, when a book with the title of “The Babadook” is found, and while reading the book to Samuel at night, horrifying images appear from the pages and things begin to get even worse for the struggling and emotionally fragile mother and son. Soon, Samuel begins to see The Babadook, allowing the creature to terrify him and allowing the darkness of the story and monster to invade their lives.

THE BABADOOK gives such a wonderfully paced opening first half, that when Samuel begins to display even worse behavior, and Amelia not only lets stress but the darkness and influence of the creature get to her, we as viewers are not only on the edge of our seats, but are extremely unnerved and scared not just of The Babadook creature, but its overwhelming influence over Amelia’s life and her relationship with Samuel.

The film works so very well as a supernatural, creature-like horror film, but its writing is so intelligent and layered, that the metaphorical side of it is so easy to not only impress its viewer but makes you wonder how someone could write and direct such an intelligent, emotionally valid and powerful genre from as this one. As Amelia begins to say and do things that no mother would ever think to say or do to her child, we as viewers know that it’s not her doing those things, that the Babadook creature’s hold on her and her emotions are so strong, that unless the pain and suffering that they both are experiencing is dealt with, that both Amelia and Samuel won’t make it through the film. The Babadook is a good allegory for the pain and loss that both the mother and son are feeling, and the creature embodies that pain and suffering, to the point of like anybody’s life and problems, must be dealt with and must be something that is finally approached and released. While being a completely terrifying film, it’s such a wonderful examination of needing to come to terms with losing something (or someone) and how much that loss can overtake someone, negatively influencing their life until they become someone they’re not.

A rare film that works as both a genuinely scary film, and a powerfully written allegory, THE BABADOOK shows how talented writer/director Jennifer Kent is, as the film serves as the most impressive horror debut in years. The bar has been raised to the top and I can’t see many other films topping this one anytime soon.

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