Biscoito18’s review published on Letterboxd:
Babadook, the monster, can already be considered a horror icon of this decade. And it didn't even needed a sequel to consolidate the status.
A misclassification in the Netflix catalog was enough for it to return to the spotlight and attract a whole new audience.
And, as a horror fan, I'm happy with this because "The Babadook" is a good example of how to do the mix between horror and drama.
1. Focus on a few characters. Preferably, only one where the others revolve around him just to emphasize some particular emotion or to make explicit some of his characteristics.
The fewer characters to develop, the more space to develop their minds.
Here, the great focus is upon Amelia, not upon the monster or Samuel, as the first minutes make appear.
The pressure of being a single mother, the hyperactive son, the estrangement from society (including her best friend), the work with the elderly and the mentally ill, the curious neighbor, and above all, the trauma of her husband's death, which even after seven years still hurts a lot.
All this and the people who represent these aspects are analyzed for the impact they have on Amelia. Apart from Samuel in some scenes, all the other characters are used only to cause a reaction in her.
The world of the film is Amelia's mind.
2. A main horror proposal that is conventional, appealing to the audience and done in an elegant way.
This is where Babadook comes in. A classic concept, beautifully filmed, with a determined color palette that unifies the whole scenarios and characters, tense scenes at night, some well-planned scares and a simple yet visually striking creature.
The film fails in some detail in this aspect mainly in the edition of some moments, that sometimes break the rhythm of a scene with some shots faster than others, and with a lack of attention in the delimitation of the space.
Also, the pre-scare tension is well done, but the scare itself isn't. It ends up feeling that something was missing. A lack of care in finalizing some scenes.
The creature is nicely presented by a beautiful pop-up book (which has already become a collection item for horror fans), and its horror icon status is already guaranteed, but as the film develops, it becomes clear the lack of depth in the creation of mythology and the characteristics of the creature.
It's obvious that this is done to enhance its psychological explanation and to establish the creature as just another element that is there only to generate a reaction in Amelia or even personify her battle against the endless mourning.
But it's clear at the end that the film wanted to keep the ambiguity of the explanations. Therefore, this supernatural aspect ended up being harmed in comparison to the psychological explanation.
And in the general context, the creature's poor mythology as well as the lack of care in finalizing the scare scenes, eventually affected the film's balance, which turns out to be more drama than horror, despite being sold primarily as a horror movie.
BUT this is a marketing problem and I'm here to talk about the movie, not about how they sold it.
3. A second proposal of horror, without supernatural elements, not so explicit and aimed at people seeking a deeper experience, on the psychological side of this horror.
The film does an excellent job in this regard. Essie Davis is fantastic in the main role and I really didn't find Noah Wiseman annoying as Samuel like a lot of people say.
I confess that this explanation is quite predictable in the second act, especially after Amelia revealed at the birthday party of Claire's daughter that she was a children's story writer.
But in this case, the ambiguous ending helped to finalize that vision elegantly, as if everything had been shown through Amelia's creative mind.
If the end had certified the audience that it was nothing more than a fantasy, a mental confusion in search of healing for a trauma that would not heal, that predictability would have been a bigger problem.
Besides that it would probably leave the people invested in the supernatural aspect furious.
"The Babadook" is a very interesting film, with strong performances, that presents a simple yet visually striking new horror icon and develop psychological traumas in a personalized way according to the mind of its own character.
8/10 - GREAT