I’ve decided to review what many consider to be the scariest film of the past decade, The Babadook. Since its release, I’ve heard many different people with many different opinions give their two cents on The Babadook. Some think it’s a modern day horror classic, others think it’s overrated and not really all that scary.
The film stars Essie Davis as Amelia Vanek, a widowed mother struggling to care for her out of control son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). One day a children’s book mysteriously shows up in their home called Mister Babadook, a book that Amelia reluctantly reads to Samuel. Soon after reading the book, strange events start taking place around the house. Amelia discovers that the monster within the pages of Mister Babadook may really exist, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes her and Samuel.
I would like to first mention that Essie Davis’s performance as Amelia is fantastic. She really embodies the role of a mother at wits end with her child, who quite possibly could crack at any moment. Through her actions and emotions, the audience gets a good glimpse into a woman who has become completely engulfed by grief.
Now, the one major complaint I hear about The Babadook is the character of the son Samuel, as his screaming and whining can be very annoying to the viewer. While I do understand why people were irritated by his character, I feel that Samuel was supposed to be a little on the annoying side. Putting up with Samuel’s antics helps the audience relate more to his mother. We can understand how and why Amelia is struggling the way she is because she never gets a break from Samuel, and neither do we.
The symbolism of The Babadook is something I’ve heard many people argue and debate about for some time. Some say The Babadook as an entity represents depression, others say it is the embodiment of grief and how you never really get over the death of a loved one. Whatever the true intent may be, I feel like the film uses a powerful amount of symbolism very effectively. The fact that so many people discuss the symbolic meaning of the film serves as a testament to its thought provoking capabilities.
The Babadook isn’t your traditional horror film, like many people expected when it first was released. It relies more on subtle scares to frighten its audience. One interesting detail I noticed is the level of unease that remains through the entire film. The audience never really gets a chance to catch its breath due to the constant tension between Amelia and Samuel, which all leads up to a frightening conclusion.
While it does have its minor flaws, The Babadook still shines bright as a satisfying film. Overall it remains more concerned with symbolic metaphors and developing its lead characters than outright scaring you. So while I don’t find the film particularly scary, I still highly enjoyed most aspects of the film. Those looking for a more traditional horror flick (filled with explicit scares), will unfortunately have to look elsewhere.
The Verdict: B+