The Babadook ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

''DON'T LET IT IN!''

Things were feeling a little to close to home as I settled into this startling debut from Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent. My four year old son is a very sensitive kid and has had sleeping issues from early on, but now we are dealing with a fear of monsters which requires us to stay with him until he falls asleep every night and sends him running into our bed almost every night at some point. So I could relate to the feelings of both characters early on, empathising both with a parent's frustration and a child's unexplainable fear of the shadows.

What is remarkable about The Babadook, is that it cuts right through the stable of cookie-cutter horror flicks of recent times (The Conjuring and Sinister to name a couple) and goes straight for the jugular via way of the head and heart. This in an intelligent horror film that is exploring grief and depression at the loss of a husband and father, and the manifestation of these into what feels like a very real monster to both. Fellow Letterboxd user Shanderson88 quite aptly mentioned Gravity as companion film in symbolically representing the overcoming of grief and trauma (letterboxd.com/shanderson88/film/the-babadook/) and I would have to agree with this train of thought, and there is no doubt that the mother is projecting feelings of disdain and maybe even blame onto her son as part of her coping mechanism via way of the Babadook.

Kent does not rely on jump scares, but uses subtlety and performance to sell her ideas with bone-chilling results, and it is quite obvious she has learned from the best examples in the genre on how get the most from her environment and sound design. The performances from both leads are stellar with Essie Davis offering up an authentic and emotionally nuanced display, whilst Noah Wiseman as her son is perfectly cast, even on his ghoulish appearance alone. Even Mrs. Roach (Barbara West) as the elderly next door neighbour gives a heartfelt performance, as does Robbie (Daniel Henshall) as Amelia's co-worker. As expected from an Aussie production, there is enough humour to keep it from being a completely dour experience and Kent is obviously versed in how to balance these elements, and although I personally am not easily frightened by these types of films, I am most impressed at how unnerving it managed to be. The Babadook will be talked about for years to come I predict, but I pray it remains a singular gem and does not suffer the franchise treatment.

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