The Babadook ★★★★

I'm a little late to the party with this one.

"If you touch my son again, I'll fucking kill you!"

About 15 minutes into first-time director Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, I became aware of one thing: there had been no jump scares so far. And throughout the movie, continuously, a complete lack of jump scares. Not that The Babadook didn't present opportunities: there were sudden knocks at the door, the titular Babadook occasionally appeared without warning, and so on. But Kent never felt the need to condescend to the audience by providing us with a cheap musical cue. I don't have a problem with jump scares (when used sparingly), but I cannot even put into words how refreshing it was to watch a film where this cheap form of fright was absent.

It makes sense, then, that The Babadook straddles a fine line between horror and drama: it's part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part portrait of a woman's home life disintegrating. And so I must implore any possible viewers of The Babadook to understand that this is 100% not a monster movie. Sure, it has a monster, but it's much more akin to a portrayal of psychosis slowly entering a mother's home life (the family version of Repulsion, if you will). The Babadook, while haunting the story continuously, works much better as a metaphor or catalyst for the events unfolding on screen.

Jennifer Kent has created a spectacular debut. It is a gorgeous film: every shot contributes to the atmosphere, making it more and more oppressive, even in the scenes where it doesn't make sense to be. She teases a great performance out of her lead, and as far as the kid goes...I'm sure she did her best. (Of course, there's the more than likely possibility that the kid was supposed to be that annoying throughout.) My only two gripes with her directing are the extremely fast editing and the pacing, which hits a snag about 50 minutes into the movie and only really recovers in the last 15. Still, I'm just gonna call it now: Jennifer Kent is a person to keep our eyes on.

The Babadook can be triggered at any moment: through a look, or a word. And you can never get rid of the Babadook. You can keep it in your basement, sedated with worms, but it's still there, rotting and corrupting the foundation of your home, your life. You can plant a garden on the skeletons of your past, but you can't deny the dirty, rotten skeleton in the ground. Even if everything is under control for a moment, it can only be a matter of time before the spool of yarn begins to unravel again, before the Babadook rises to feast once more. There's no defeating the Babadook.

Screw jump scares: that's scary enough.

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