“I have moved on. I don’t mention him. I don’t talk about him.”
Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia is at a loss. She struggles to discipline her out of control 6-year-old Samuel, a son she finds impossible to love. Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called “The Babadook” turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about. His hallucinations spiral out of control, he becomes more unpredictable and violent. Amelia, genuinely frightened by her son’s behavior, is forced to medicate him. But when Amelia begins to see glimpses of a sinister presence all around her, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may be real.
I have to give it to the Aussies; they really do know how to make an effective horror movie that will get right under your skin. And since I don’t really have a proper segue into it, let’s dive right into the 2014 psychological horror flick The Babadook, shall we?
On the surface, The Babadook looks like one of those dime a dozen The Haunting Of [ENTER STATE/CITY HERE] type of direct-to-video movie that seemed to pop up like a rash after using a public swimming pool in the last decade. Instead, The Babadook goes more for a psychological The Turn Of The Screw route with the story, whereas even at the end of the movie, you still don’t know if there really was a haunting by a supernatural boogieman, or if it was all a massive nervous breakdown experienced by the mother.
There’s a dissonant tension that builds up slowly from the beginning, which relies more on the character development and the almost suffocating atmosphere, rather than any kind of “boo” scares. You really get a textured feel of the mother’s despiration and downward spiral, something that’s not helped by one of the most annoying 6-year-olds you will ever come across. When the wackiness starts happening, you don’t really know if this is all part of a severe mental breakdown, or if the Babadook itself is real…or maybe a combination of both.
The movie works best as an unconventional psychological horror, which really builds things up to a high pressure point…and then the final ten minutes goes into full-on supernatural haunting mode. Sure, it does deflate the previous build-up a bit, but not enough to completely take you out of the movie, really.
Overall, though, this is one of the times where you can really trust the hype behind this being one of the more effective horror movies to come out in recent times. Even with the lights on, it will get to you.