The Babadook ★★★★★

“I’ll wager with you
I’ll make you a bet
The more you deny
The stronger I get”
-Mister Babadook

Being the avid cinemaphile that I am, I couldn’t help hearing the near universal acclaim for an Australian horror film called “The Babadook” that premiered last year. The director of “The Exorcist” William Friedkin said on his Twitter account, "I've never seen a more terrifying film. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me” and said beforehand that the film was on par with Psycho, Alien, & Diabolique.

After having seen the film itself I can see why people were so impressed it. 2014 was filled with large number of lousy and/or lazy horror films including Ouija, Tusk, & Annabelle, among others. “The Babadook” is a breath of fresh air that avoids tired horror clichés and easy scares with a distinctive style, oppressive atmosphere, its slow burn method of storytelling. But the best part of this film, much like The Exorcist (which makes a great companion piece to this film by the way), is the reality subtext behind the supernatural; said subtext being that the Babadook is the physical manifestation of grief. Upon further examination, the film’s plot structure even transitions through the Five (Mythical) Stages of Grief:

>Denial-Amelia has been in denial of her husband’s death for years and also denies the existence of the Babadook.

>Anger-The Babadook’s book reappears with new pages depicting Samuel’s and Amelia’s grisly deaths which stress out Amelia even more.

>Fear-Amelia starts seeing the Babadook in everyday places and is eventually attacked by it.

>Bargaining-Amelia is confronted by the Babadook disguised as her dead husband who says if she brings him Samuel everything will stop.

>Acceptance-Once Amelia comes to terms with her late husband’s death the Babadook loses its power over her.

Amelia has clearly suppressed the grief of her husband’s death for years which has left her a very damaged person. It is only after she comes to terms with her husband’s death that the Babadook ceases to have power over her. But much like real grief the Babadook can’t be killed or exorcised, it simply has to be lived with.

But despite this film’s superb storytelling and presentation, the question remains, will this film become a modern classic? I honestly don’t know. The film is a genuinely scary allegorical tale with fantastic direction, great actors, and one hell of an iconic monster. But I’m not sure anybody can predict what’s going to be heralded 30 years from now. All I can honestly say is that I watched this yesterday and its still creeping me out. If you haven’t already, give this film a watch.

Click here for my review of Jennifer Kent's directorial debut, Monster.

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