The Babadook ★★★★

We've watched more films than we realize that deal with similar subject matter to The Babadook. Sometimes they take a supernatural bent (The Shining) or a hokey, more mainstream-palatable approach (Dexter's “dark passenger” comes to mind). But rarely is a metaphor kept so groundedly clean. That doesn't mean this film isn't nuanced or even open to interpretation, but it does mean that the approach is simple and while it relies on classic horror conventions, it's message is not relying on them to frame its story. Rather, it's embracing them as a framework for something much more personal, harnessing them for an ulterior motive.

Part of me wants to avoid discussion about what this film is actually about because I feel that it was spoiled for me and that actually detracted from my experience. But doing so also makes it impossible to discuss some of the best parts about the film. So instead of having that discussion, I will say this: the crafting of this narrative within the parameters of a classic horror film is done with great intent, and superficially, it's not a groundbreaking horror movie. We've seen and heard all of this before. But that's the point. From the masterfully claustrophobic sound design (with cues and references that are as much obvious as they are curious choices in context) to the visual treatment of movement (stop motion and other snap trickery), The Babadook uses the language of horror films to lure us into a false sense of expectation. But the latter half of the film squarely reveals itself to be something entirely different from the horror genre.

On the whole, it’s an impressive piece of filmmaking, with incredibly strong performances and sound design, and a devastatingly impactful message at its core.