Australian horror is in a niche all its own and the 2014 film The Babadook presents its scariest points in a combination of stress, terror and over imagination, maybe. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is her first feature length project. It tells the tale of single mother and her son dealing with the issue of death and the fear of a bogeyman type character discovered in a children’s book. Starring Essie Davis (Burning Man, Girl With a Pearl Earring) and Noah Wiseman this film slowly builds in intensity piling on the pressure until the two main characters are consumed by their fear of this fictional creature.
Amelia works in a home for demented old people and her hyperactive and over imaginative boy Samuel is wearing her out. The child has nightmares and his inability to sleep through the night is exhausting his mother. The overtired woman has issues of her own dealing with the death of her husband, and Samuel’s father, who was killed in a car crash driving his then pregnant wife to the hospital. At the start of the film, Amelia is dreaming of the accident when her son wakes up screaming from his own bad dreams. His mother allows him to sleep in her bed, but he makes so much noise that she cannot sleep.
Samuel asks his mother to read him a book about the Babadook and it terrifies the boy. After this her son is transfixed by the terrifying creature and after some concerning episodes with Samuel, she rips the book up and throws it away. Later, the book reappears on her doorstep and someone, or something, has glued the pages back together. In what is one of the scariest Australian horror films in the last 20 years, The Babadook makes the viewer question the mother’s sanity and and wonder if the boy has come unglued as well.
Noah Wiseman as Samuel is equal parts weird and annoying at first, then brave and terrified later on. The youngster’s character has to battle more than the scary Babadook, at one point his mother seems to be possessed by the creature and he must defend himself from her. The film is full of battles of an internal nature and between Sam and his mother and later in the film between Amelia and the creature. There are some truly frightening and disturbing moments in this low budget, an estimated $2 million, horror film. At one point the mother wrenches a molar from her mouth with her bare hand. Other times in the film both main characters are drenched in blood and some sort of black viscous goo.
At its scariest, The Babadook takes several different twists and turns and this Australian horror film feels like a psychological thriller at one point, only to turn into a battle against some frightening and evil creature at another. Essie Davis is so convincing in her turns as the possessed and terrifying Amelia that it is easy to believe that the fear implicit in young Noah Wiseman’s eyes is real. This film does not have one cliched moment in it, nor does director and writer Kent rely upon Hollywood “jump scares” to impress or shock the audience. This is truly one of the most creepily disturbing films of 2014. The movie is available to stream on Amazon.com and is available through Netflix on DVD. Do not miss this brilliant film and prepare to sleep with the lights on after watching it.
By Michael Smith