The Babadook (2014) Dir. Jennifer Kent
So, I gotta admit, for as much hype this movie had attached to it, I still enjoyed it. It isn’t as groundbreaking as some sites claim that it is, but it really had me riveted for a good portion of the movie. And it actually made me sad at other times.
The main conceit is that there is this entity, energy, monster, whatever you wanna call it, that is terrorizing a widow and her son. And what I really liked about this movie is how effectively the movie was scored and how perfect its ambient noise was composed. This movie really knows how to play with sound design to get the viewer right to that point of crazy tension, then pause for effect to lull the viewer into a false sense of security, and then hit them between the eyes with a genuine scare. Not a “jump scare” where the scene cheats and the volume is cranked up to ungodly levels to overstimulate the sense. No, this hits you with a one-two punch of visual and narrative shock, all the while the volume maintains a respectful volume, but it too has been tweaked ever so slightly to be effective in its role.
I didn’t know any of the cast, which isn’t to say that they are complete unknowns or anything, just unknown to me. The mother, Amelia, played by Essie Davis, really plays the single mother barely holding her shit together. Her own problems are exacerbated by her socially awkward and possibly genius inventor son, Sam, when he is constantly sent home for basically skeeving the other kids out.
I think that the moments that really work aren’t the ones where we see the Babadook, or hear its screechy “voice”- it’s when the audience is forced to deal with its rightfully earned paranoia. You just effin’ know that something bad is gonna happen, like that scratching you hear is probably coming from the damned Babadook – nope just something hitting the house from the outside. But then at some point, it is the monster. Nice little trade offs make the difference.
I don’t want to go too far with this because I’m sure that you’ve probably already seen The Babadook, and maybe you agree, or maybe you disagree. If you haven’t seen it, by all means go out and see it. Even though there are some really slow parts, they are very few moments actually, but put those out of your mind. Concentrate on enjoying the rest of the movie for what it is – a really stylish meditation on grief and anger that also happens to be creepy and unsettling as all hell.