What’s the best horror movie you’ve seen in recent times?
Whenever I tell anybody about the site, that’s the first question that the person asks. It’s a loaded question however. Answer too mainstream and you’re written off as “novice”. Answer too obscure and you’re met with a glazed expression and trying to explain a purposefully convoluted plot without giving away any twists that may occur. Many recent horror films have been watchable. They’ve been a good watch.
But…there hasn’t been that one film.
You know, that film you have to rush out and tell the world about. The film that made you question a noise upstairs while grounding you in reality. The film that immediately haunts you as you try to break it down in your head. That film hadn’t come out…until now.
The Babadook premiered last January at the Sundance Film Festival. An obscure Australian film without major names attached to it, it impressed the critics and infatuated the audiences. The trailer immediately hit YouTube and every horror fan’s radar. It’s a simple complex film that plays out a slow burn disaster right in front of your eyes. The acting is great, and the creepiness of it continues from the beginning to the end.
The film opens with a faint glimpse of the couple Amelia and Oskar (Essie Davis and Benjamin Winspear) as they are involved in an automobile accident. It turns out that Amelia and Oskar were on their way to the hospital for the birth of their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). After a quick cut, we realize that it is nearly 7 years later and Oskar died in that accident while Samuel lived.
Amelia is a broken woman. Obviously still battling depression, she walks aimlessly through her life. She is stuck. She keeps her friends and family at a distance through her depression, and Samuel is trapped inside this world. Davis rarely wears makeup in this role, and looks the part spectacularly. She is there for Samuel, but then again…she’s not. She allows the 6 year old to play with weapons (???), and generally just wants the boy to behave in public to show how normal he is. The biggest issue in the house is that Oskar is not spoken of, but he haunts the house with his presence.
One evening, Samuel brings Amelia a mysterious book on his shelf entitled “Mister Babadook”. The book is completely terrifying and states that the Babadook will sneak into your house and demand you let him in until you do. Once you see him unmasked, you’ll wish that you were dead. It’s awful, and leaves poor Samuel sobbing himself to sleep with a light on and on his mother’s lap.
Amelia puts the book up, but Samuel begins seeing the Babadook and warning Amelia of his arrival into her life. Her perception begins to change, and soon she begins being terrorized by him as well. It’s all well done, and it places Amelia (as the authority figure) into more and more of a childlike state.
As a parent, The Babadook is a rough watch. It plays with your insecurity of being a good parent, and it portrays Samuel (not only a victim of the world, but as) a victim of his mother’s depression. His mother’s demons haunt him, and he doesn’t stand a chance in this world until his mother can face those demons and be there for him. I must admit, I found myself more and more horrified of his world than I did for Amelia (who Mister Babadook takes more of a liking to) and could easily relate.
One of the scariest concepts explored is the inability and the uncertainty of life. Often, we don’t see a person’s passing (especially by accident) or we don’t see ourselves becoming addicted or out of control. We see ourselves how we want to see us (through rose colored lenses). We don’t see warning signs, or even scars sometimes. And, once we do, often we ignore. We hope they go away. But, sometimes, you just can’t get rid of the scars. You have to live with them.
And that’s where The Babadook excels. It revels in its ability to shapeshift from a psychological thriller to a supernatural scare without remorse. It plays on your adult instinct to peg its event to real world manic depression while isolating you from reality. It lives in the shadows, and effectively makes you wonder which interpretation (supernatural or natural) is correct (much like fan favorite Session 9).
The images are creepy, but the shadows are creepier. It shows just enough to lead you and then lets your imagination take over. What we do see is not particularly impressive, but effective nonetheless. The film is creeks, footsteps, rustling, and faint glimpses. It’s phenomenal (especially for first time writer and director Jennifer Kent).
The Babadook is available on VOD to Direct TV customers today. It doesn’t hit VOD or theaters until November though. If you are looking for horror recommendations this Halloween, you can not go wrong with this one. This film is memorable.