I don’t remember that last time I saw a great horror movie that genuinely scared the crap out of me, maybe the first Insidious film, and The Babadook is surprisingly one of the best this genre has to offer as of late. Prior to seeing the movie I had heard a lot of buzz and planned on watching it when I got the chance. Since it wasn’t a wide-release, I had to wait until it was available for rent. Well I finally saw it and all I can say is wow! Props to the filmmaker, Jennifer Kent, for making an originally terrifying horror film in an era that has not been so great for the horror genre.
Arguably the most significant aspect of making a good movie, regardless of genre, is story and characters. This movie actually has a narrative that carries through its entirety and it spends a lot of time letting the audience get to know the characters which works very well. Otherwise, if the audience doesn’t care about what’s going on in the movie or the characters involved in the story then they’re not going to care when the scary moments occur. Too many horror movies lately rely heavily on jump-scares and gore to intrigue the audience and, while that has worked in the past, audiences are getting more intelligent as time goes on and they want to care about the story within the movie to be interested. They also want to care about the characters in the movie. The mother and son dynamic in The Babadook is something people can relate to, this makes people feel like the scenario in the movie could happen to them, which makes it all the more scarier.
Equally important to having good characters is having good/great actors to portray those characters. The lead actress, Essie Davis, proves what I’ve been hearing about this movie which is that she gives a spectacular performance. She is able to go from a quiet and timid mother to a terrifying possessed crazy lady and makes both seem very believable. Another standout performance is Noah Wiseman, the boy who plays her son in the movie. For a child actor he does an amazing job at being charming, annoying and creepy all throughout the film. These two performances carry the movie and make the characters seem real, which overall gives more quality and credibility to this movie.
One thing great horror movies have done in the past is create a mythology around a certain character or entity that resonates with audiences and keeps them referencing it or talking about it. This movie accomplishes that with the Babadook spirit or creature (whatever it is). Myself and several of my friends have referenced the Babadook either in jokes or trying to scare each other. This is similar to when people used to say “the boogeyman is coming”, referencing Michael Meyers, or when people would mimick the “ah,ah,ah” sound to scare a friend from the Friday the 13th movies. It’s never bad when a horror figure can have people freaked out by it enough to reference it the next day or several days later. The fact that they were able create this Babadook being within a good movie is something that can stick with audiences and create word-of-mouth, which this movie is developing a lot of.
Now although I like this movie as a whole, I was actually really disappointed in the ending. Without giving away spoilers, it has one of those endings that leaves the audience confused. I wasn’t actually sure what they were going for with the ending and from my perspective it asked more questions than it answered. For some people these type of endings work but I would have rather seen a definitive ending for this particular story. Other than that there honestly aren’t many things wrong with this movie. It isn’t a masterpiece by any means but it is a very well executed horror film that is terrifying and intelligent in its approach. Fans of horror should love it and even casual movie fans will enjoy it, especially if they like the thrill of being scared.
Have you all seen The Babadook? If so, let us know what you thought in the comment section!