TheGiantClaw’s review published on Letterboxd:
Once every year there is a horror movie that comes along, whether big budgeted or independent, which greets us with some much needed chills down our spines and stands head and shoulders above the rest. In 2012 it was Cabin in the Woods, 2013 it was The Conjuring, this year it's It Follows, and last year it was The Babadook, the Australian debut of Jennifer Kent.
The Babadook is the story of a mother dealing with the stress of the constant reminders of the death of her husband, the dull lifelessness of her job, and her troubled son. Eventually the stress builds to the point to where she can't tell if she's going crazy or there is something after her and her child.
The film has a great slow build to the title character, not revealing anything of this mysterious children's book boogeyman until much later in the movie. It gradually shows the mother's deteriorating mental health and the escalation of the strange behavior of her son before the real fun starts. A book, Mister Babadook, a terrified child repeating the warning of the unseen monster, and finally the terror becoming reality. It reminded me a lot of the Robert Wise film The Haunting, a film built on suspense and the unknown. A woman slowly losing her mind and wondering if the strange happenings are a part of her mental breakdown or something unknown. The build is so intense and the payoff is so glorious. This is something movies like The Haunting of Helena tried and failed to do. A glorious return of the Boogeyman with a modern update.
Essie Davis deserved an Oscar nod for one of the best horror performances in a while. Her emotional shifts from a sympathetic broken down woman trying to stay strong and keep her life together to a terrifying monster are nothing short of marvelous. She is truly what makes the film so captivating. To watch her go through this whirlwind of emotions so believably is haunting and is easily the high point of the film. And the same can be said for Noah Wiseman, a rare breed of talent for such a young actor. Every time I see a bratty child in a movie I'm always left groaning in pain because bratty children are one of the things I refuse to put up with even for a second. And yes, the son does scream and annoy his mom nearly to the breaking point, but it's justified because he's alone, shunned for being different and having to deal with mortality because of the untimely death of the father he never knew. That's a lot of hard reality to put on a kid's mind.
The Babadook is a masterfully crafted horror movie that shows that horror is still scary without relying on a gimmick or riding on the coattails of an original movie to put asses in seats. It is its own entity and God bless it for that. More movies need to take a page from the book of Mister Babadook.