Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
Directed by: Jennifer Kent (debut)
Written by: Jennifer Kent (debut)
Leave it to a filmmaker from the Land Down Under to show American horror movie directors the right way to make a horror movie. In the gripping and incredibly emotionally disturbing Australian film “The Babadook,” first-time feature director/writer Jennifer Kent creates such a natural and menacing tone throughout the film, fans of more mainstream U.S. movies might not actually know what hit them.
Instead of taking the easy way out and pummeling audiences over the head with unnecessary gore, cheap special effects and editing tricks that would make anyone with their eyes open flinch in their seats (it’s not because it’s scary you blokes; you jump because of your instinctive motor functions!), Kent manages the scares with a special attention to detail and more vastly superior characterizations than any horror movie in recent memory. The storyline might be somewhat traditional since it features a narrative about a monster hiding in the dark, but it’s so much more than that.
The film starts and ends with the incredible performance (Oscar worthy if horror movies got that much respect) by Essie Davis (“Charlotte’s Web”) as Amelia, a single mother who is still reeling from the tragic death of her husband seven years prior. Her grief becomes insurmountable as she attends to her daily responsibilities at work and to her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who can be a handful like any other little boy. Samuel, however, begins to fear there is more than just the average imaginary monster in his room, which would normally be remedied with a quick check in the closet and under the bed. When a frightening pop-up children’s book mysteriously shows up in the house, nightmarish scenarios begin to occur with Amelia fighting to protect what’s hers, but also struggling with her own inner demons bent on destroying what little strength she has left.
While the competition for horror movie audiences has been extremely sub-par this year (as it is most years with terrible U.S.-made horror films like “Ouija,” “As Above So Below,” “Deliver Us From Evil” and “Annabelle” stinking up the theaters), “The Babadook” is a welcomed change of pace for anyone who doesn’t mind a more intimate story that doesn’t cut back on harrowing themes and chilling messages about depression and anguish that Kent delivers in an incredibly dark and meaningful way. There is substance behind “The Babadook” that the majority of horror films looking to make a quick cash grab at theaters during October could only wish for. Once moviegoers realize this is what horror movies are supposed to do, they’ll hopefully stop being content with the bare minimum and demand more from the likes of James Wan, Ti West, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie. With her first feature film, Kent has left them all behind in her dust.