Practically every region has its own boogieman in some form or another. For Australia, that boogeyman is Mister Babadook.
And in a land where every one of the members of their indigenous wildlife can eat you, bite you and otherwise kill you, you know that their boogeyman is going to be on point with something real horror show to exceed the fear of a kangaroo beating you to death or getting poisoned by a koala.
The latest film from Australian director Jennifer Kent focuses on Mister Babadook. From the name Babadook alone I would have thought comedy. Maybe a comedy starring Yahoo Serious, but “The Babadook” is far from shenanigans and more about unadulterated fear rattles.
“The Babadook” centers on a young Samuel and his mother who are trying to live normal lives following a car accident that took the life of their husband and father.
After she reads him a children’s story (that mysteriously showed up in the room of the young boy) young Samuel becomes obsessed with an invisible entity that will not stop haunting him.
In a “Monster Squad” meets “Lost Boys” like the approach the boy begins building crossbows and slings along with other weapons to protect him his mother from the monster he believes is lurking in their home.
“If it’s in a look it’s in a book you can’t get rid of the Babadook,” one of the quotes from the children’s book reads. And once Amelia sees the Babadook he relentlessly begins to haunt her and her son Samuel forcing them into a battle for their own sanity and the stability of their already shattered family.
“The Babadook” is a different kind of horror movie. It doesn’t rely on as many tacky jump scares as it does create its own atmosphere and a loveable mother and son dynamic to go with it.
There is a lot of psychological tug of war that the film evokes in its audience as well. As an audience member, you aren’t sure if this is psychological, physical or metaphorical. The great approach the film takes is that any of those three outcomes are equally horrifying.
Focusing on a mother and son dynamic and putting that relationship through the grinder is hard to watch on its own without the introduction of Mister Babadook. But, once he is thrown into the mix things become even bleaker.
Speaking of bleak, the production design work is fantastic. The world that they create is devoid of color by using only grays and washed-out blues. Key points are occasionally highlighted in red to coincide with something going on in the story.
Essie Davis who plays Amelia and Noah Wiseman who plays Samuel are both excellent in their roles. It’s been a long time since I have seen a young actor as believable and someone I felt could sympathize with as much as I did with his character.
“The Babadook” does stay with you after it’s over. I caught myself jumping when there was a knock at the door after this one. It doesn’t go for the scares that we are used to, and for me, that is a big plus. The addition of all the more dramatic elements do a lot to strengthen the bigger scares in the film as well.
Don’t watch this one alone and if any children’s books mysteriously appear on your bookshelf just run.
“The Babadook” opens in the US on November 28.