I certainly wasn’t expecting this. How often do horror fans see a 98% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes? Once every never? Like every other horror fan, I was excited to sit down and watch a film that terrified ‘The Exorcist‘ director, William Friedkin. He stated: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” That’s a huge compliment. Filmed for a paltry $30K, writer/director, Jennifer Kent, has created a name for herself in a stagnant genre.
‘The Babadook’ is about grief and loss. A young mother (Essie Davis) loses her husband and must raise a rather high-maintenance child (Noah Wiseman) by herself. Already weakened by lack of sleep and her child’s intense demands, the mother reads her son a terrifying book called ‘The Babadook’. Maybe letting that already anxious and intelligent kid read something like ‘The Babadook‘ wasn’t such a great idea to begin with, but I digress. Filled with ominous drawings and the nightmare-inducing line “If it’s in a word, of if it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook.” She soon finds this to be true.
What succeeds in this film is a horror anomaly. ‘The Babadook‘ focuses on character-driven relations and intense storytelling/presentation to get under your skin. The film never uses cliché jump-out scares. The viewer knows almost nothing about the titular monster, and that’s the way it should be. There is no origin story or over-explained reasoning behind this monster. We’re burdened with quick glimpses of the thing, and that was enough to kick my imagination into hyper-overdrive. The slow, maddening process exhausts the characters as well as the viewer. The sound engineering is brilliant, making me grimace in anticipated visual horror with the haunting audio harbinger. I have no complaints with this uniquely stripped-down horror presentation and rate it just below ‘Starry Eyes‘, and that was my favorite horror film of 2014.
The mother and son story goes a long way and you’re bound to wonder who’s providing the true protection as the film reaches its dizzying third act. My girlfriend and I cringed and gasped in unison, torturing ourselves with this deeply disturbing film, and I suggest you do the same. This is the stuff of nightmares. Watch it with the lights out if you can bear it.