‘The Babadook’ Is One of the Scariest Movies You’ll See All Year
“You can’t get rid of the Babadook,” utters Samuel, the child in the similarly named movie The Babadook. Released just this past year, the Aussie flick has become one of the most talked-about horror films of 2014, thanks in large part to its dependence less on gore and jump scares and more on the psychological aspects of the genre.
It’s currently rated at a whopping 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and has become an audience and critic darling, making for scores of frightened fans who feel compelled to spread the word of this unnervingly entertaining movie.
Subtlety is the name of the game for this unique movie, focusing on a single mother mourning the death of her husband and trying to cope with an unruly child. Strip away the horror aspects of the film and it still manages to tell a harrowing tale of just how difficult being a parent can be. With the soon-to-be iconic monster in the picture, it’s downright terrifying. The story itself is simple enough: Samuel (the aforementioned unruly child) and his mother, Amelia, find a strange book entitled “Mister Babadook” nestled into their personal library of bedtime tales.
Amelia begins to read it aloud, with each page darker and more sinister than the last, until Samuel is reduced to tears and unable to do anything that resembles sleeping. Without giving too much away, things escalate from there, relegating average viewers to hugging a pillow and reminding themselves that it’s just a movie.
The true terror of The Babadook lies in the power of suggestion. At no point do we ever get a good look at the title monster, preferring to lurk in the shadows and in the corner of our collective eyes. With a quasi-Victorian top hat and cloak paired with fingers as sharp as knives, it’s the boogeyman we all were scared was lurking under our beds as children.
It taps into that very fear, magnifying it tenfold as we watch a mother slowly come unraveled while she quite literally faces her demons. Performances from Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, as well as direction from Jennifer Kent, culminate in an expertly-made horror film that ranks among the classics of the genre.
Even critics are coming out and saying as much, with Colin Covert of the Star Tribune lending perhaps the highest praise: ” ‘The Babadook’ is urgent, uncanny and entirely disturbing, a dream within a dream within a nightmare. It is the best English language supernatural film of this new century.”
In a century that’s been fairly light on ghost stories not remade and adapted from Japanese source material, The Babadook is a breath of terrifying fresh air. Films like the Saw franchise have become what’s defined the English-language horror flick, and in turn the genre has gotten lazy in terms of what it has to do to frighten an audience.
It makes it all the more refreshing to see a movie work for its scares the way this instant classic does. Fraught with creepy nursery rhymes, a masterful use of suggestive horror, and a relatable human narrative, The Babadook is everything you could possibly want. Just don’t count on sleeping for a while once you see it.