'The Babadook' Review: Light on Content, Heavy on Style
The Babadook doesn't fully live up to the hype that has recieved this year, even with its 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not to say the movie was a loss, it did serve a purpose. In the end you truly understand what the film was trying to achieve but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. In most films it really isn't that blatantly obvious, it's more subtle to say the least, however Babadook lacks that subtly. This film is really about the depths of sorrow you feel when losing a loved one.
The film's plot is straightforward enough. Amelia, the mother, has lost her husband Oskar in a unfortunate accident. They got into a car crash on the way to the hospital while she was going into labor. This accident leaves a deep scar on Amelia and her son's lives that permeates the beginning of the film; especially with Samuel who is obnoxious during the first half. However, he becomes less annoying towards the last half of the film because he eventually grows a pair and sticks up for his life. The preview for the film works you up for a good creepy and jumpy film, however once you get into it, you quickly realize it's about Amelia's mental state than the Babadook. It still holds on to the creep factor with the whole color and emotion the film projects to its audience and when the Babadook makes his appearance it really does the job.
I felt that Babadook is the monster you see in the shadows at night while going outside to take out the trash. He is that shadow cast from a tree, or coat rack you might have been afraid of. It brings back the feeling of being a child, scared of the monster under the bed; that is the Babadook. The Babadook is everything you've feared as a child made into reality and the film does a good job of portraying him as the literal embodiment of fear.
The true crux of the film however is the performance by Essie Davis as Amelia. Her performance is all about duality; at one time caring and loving, the other, spiteful and angry. During the film, the Babadook possesses Amelia and allows her anger and disdain for Samuel to come out. She resents Samuel for her husband's death and blames him for her misery. The Babadook allows her deep seated emotional problems to be directed her son. Davis does a fantastic job of allowing Amelia's torn psyche to come through while not overplaying it. You believe that she is emotionally torn by the loss of her husband and trying to love her son.
The movie lags in parts, mainly towards the middle of the film. It is hard to maintain the pace of the film, as it relies solely on the psychological aspect of horror as opposed to the literal manifestation. The Babadook is seen sparingly throughout the film, and the viewer is almost waiting for each time it is on screen. Also, the film suffers from an unresolved subplot where it seems the writers wanted Amelia to have a love interest involving a random coworker but it ends up going nowhere.
The Babadook is a horror film that is attempting to be taken more seriously than most in the genre. It is trying to tell an emotional story about a mother and child that have gone through traumatic events together resulting in a strained relationship. However, it doesn't present these ideas in a way that is subtle or creative, it is derivative and formulaic. The only thing that saved this movie from being truly forgettable was Essie Davis' role as Amelia, other than that there would be little to watch Babadook for. It has ridden a wave of hype that attempts to shoehorn itself into the pantheon of horror classics like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby.
Final Say: Don't Watch It