The Babadook ★★★★½


"Most terrifying film of all-time." -someone whom you're likely to take the word of. "Unable to sleep after seeing this." -writer and/or director of a long-since acclaimed horror film.

These things get tossed around so often it's hard to appreciate the genre in this day and age. It seems if one thing is certain, it's that no one is ever in agreement over the level of chills found in a single film.

The Babadook is no exception to this uneven reception in the viewers' admittance of fear, but what the Babadook is undoubtedly, is a terrific work of film. The thrills are chilling and the story is a beautiful psychological allegory, but it is the director's work that sets the Babadook apart. From the very first scenes, this film aims to play out as a horror, but use the filmmaking work of an Oscar-worthy drama. The cinematography and score are also terrific, all playing into a superior level of horror filmmaking.

The film is not without its flaws however, as the pacing is too slow to hold the viewer's full attention. Much like visiting a thrilling theme park in late-October, it is scary when it's new, but by the time you're ready to go home, you become too comfortable among the monsters to enjoy the thrill. The Babadook certainly makes use of the slow-burning chills, building most of its terror off of what you're already expecting based on horror film norms. The Babadook doesn't even need to show up in the film and we'd still fear him. But the slow pace just burns a bit too slowly. While it uses your expectation of fright to build its terror, it overstays that welcome when you stop expecting and begin to feel comfortable.

By the end, the Babadook loses its thrill in my book, but it retains its wonderful direction and continues to build its poetic parallel to grief and loss until the credits roll. It is this latter statement that makes this film beautiful. For those watching for the first time, be open-minded and see the film for the allegory that it is and do not be distracted by the "fear meter" so many horror fans are quick to pull out. It is undoubtedly arguable in the department of chills, but is far less deniable in its superior level of craftsmanship and beautiful analysis of motherhood, grief, and psychology.