Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Creepy, stylish, unique.
I’m a semi-fan of the horror genre. I prefer a very specific type of horror in film – and that is a scary movie that doesn’t rely on cheap scares or heavy gore. In fact, my opinion on a scary movie is one that doesn’t show anything visually at all, other than maybe one short glimpse. Instead, I want the audience to create their own image of a monster – because your brain is capable of creating the scariest thing you can ever imagine (obviously). Make the audience draw up their own personal monster based on the legends and sounds the film provides. While The Babadook sort of does this, it takes a completely different route to scare you…which I can also respect.
Now, this movie centers on the family of a single mother and her son. A few years ago, on the day of her son’s birth, this woman went through a tremendous loss and it never stopped affecting her. She loves her son, but you can almost tell right away that she can’t always stand the boy.When she accidentally reads him a nightmare-inducing bedtime story called Mister Babadook, the two of them begin experiencing strange phenomenon around the house that, in a way, mimics the events of the book.
This is a very, very interesting film for a variety of reasons. I don’t necessarily call it scary in the traditional sense, but more along the lines of a psychological sense – which I love. Anything that goes down the path of psychological thrillers I will usually be game for, because they make you think – and any horror film that makes the audience think about scary things…is on the right path. The Babadook initially makes you think about this monster in the book, and as it moves along, the film grows intense and starts to make you think about other things.
One of the best attributes this film has is the ability to offer you a few different explanations. You can easily watch it as a scary, bump-in-the-night, boogeyman horror film, or you can look at it a few other, reasonable ways as well. For example, and this may be a little spoilery, but in the beginning of the film, you know the mother hadn’t been sleeping in a long time and that her son is a very strange, imaginative boy. The Babadook could simply be the product of a young boy’s imagination and hallucination of a terribly sleep-deprived mother. There are solid reasons to believe a supernatural presence as well, though, which makes this film absolutely fascinating.
As fascinating as it is, however, I still have my problems with it. Now these problems are strictly opinionated from my end, but I don’t think they needed to show as much of this Babadook as they did – whether it was real or not. I appreciated the corner-of-your-eye, brief glimpses of it, as it could have been seen as a “Did I just see…nawwww” moment. The story the mother read to the boy was our “legend” that I was talking about earlier. All the movie had to do from that point forward is to give you hints that it may either be real, or the product of paranoia and sleep deprivation.
Another problem I had with this film was unfortunately the kid. They played him off as an annoying, strange kid…and he is exactly that. I couldn’t help but notice the child screaming his head off in almost every single scene, and this is a very quiet movie – other than the kid. You can have the volume at maximum with this movie and be straining to hear what people are saying, but then that kid talks and you’re immediately covering your ears. It’s more than that though, I really don’t think he’s the greatest child actor. There are moments when he’s supposedly supposed to look terrified, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see a hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth every time.
Back to the concept of the thing – is The Babadook a scary movie? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that it plays with the senses in your brain that trigger being creeped out. It plays with very real, human problems that also affect you in horrible ways – and these are the main things that get you. These are the moments that creep you out to no end; the idea that the real horror of the film could be something hidden underneath the layer of this Babadook creature story. Some people will truly love this film.
There is a lot to love with The Babadook, as it goes back to some of the key elements that made horror a legendary genre in film. There are no cheap scares or reliance on buckets of blood or guts. It wears the mask of a scary creature film while really scaring the audience with realistic and dramatic human problems – and how those things can possibly manifest themselves into inner demons and change a person if they aren’t careful…or something like that.
It’s not going to impress a lot of people who are prone to expect certain things out of horror films. Also, that kid annoyed the crap out of me.