The Babadook ★★★

On one hand I really want to lavish praise on The Babadook for taking a unique horror tale and giving it a nice, female-centric perspective. On the other hand, I found the film almost tortuous to watch with its high pitched hysterics and lack of a cohesive vision. The story follows Amelia, a single mom struggling to raise her young son after the death of her husband. Things are complicated further when a mysterious book shows up at their house containing a violent story of a monster called the Babadook, which begins to haunt the family outside of its pages.

Like most horror films, The Babadook is most effective when its monster is hidden within the looming shadows of the aged house in which the action takes place. While it remains unseen, the film's horror is derived from a threat of the unknown, or more tangibly, the threat of real life. Amelia is a woman lost in grief, still mourning her husband and neglecting her son in the process, leading to a life of guilt and frustration as young Samuel gets to be more and more out of hand. Once The Babadook shows up things obviously get worse, though once it shows its face, things get sillier instead. The monster looks like a sad hybrid of Freddy Krueger and Mr. Hyde from The Nightmare Before Christmas, with its clawed hands and bulky coat. It also looks very fake and all of the menace drains from the film the moment you first lay eyes upon it. Which is a shame, because until then the atmosphere lays about the picture as thick as the swirling dust motes clogging the air.

I mentioned above how draining the constant shouted dialogue became over the course of the film, with most of the climax consisting of Amelia and Samuel yelling at each in increasingly shrill and nasty ways. However, I don't want to detract from the performances by leads Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, both actors turn in amazing performances with very complicated characters and any fault found with them lays solely at the feet of the writer and director. The whole script is a bit sloppy, trying to be too many things at once, from a real world parable to a monster movie to a haunted house film, the ending especially reeks of a lack of clear focus. Its a shame really, The Babadook had a lot of promise and writer/director Jennifer Kent clearly knows how to craft a horror film, she just needs to work on tightening her focus and toning down her writing and she could give the world a truly chilling film, Sadly, this is not that film.

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