Viewed – 06 July 2015 Blu-ray
I wanted to watch this critically acclaimed Australian horror for a while, but could I find it to rent? No. So I decided it might be worth buying, and hoped it lived up to the reviews. Amelia, a single mother bringing up a boisterous young boy Samuel, still mourns the death of her husband and the boy’s father seven year’s previous. One day during a bedtime reading session, the boy takes a mysterious book from his bedroom shelf, which Amelia has never seen before, and subsequently starts to read it. However the creepy fairy-tale soon sends shivers down her spine and she decides not to finish it. But her son has other ideas and get’s obsessed with the character of The Babadook. Is it real, or just in his imagination?
This effective, slow-burning movie was rich in atmosphere and aided well by some clever camera work and subtle visual effects that helped build plenty of tension. I quickly got the impression that Amelia might be having a nervous breakdown, and the stresses of Samuel’s behaviour, that became increasingly difficult to control only added to her problems. It’s a movie that can be read on two levels, that of a possessed book and a demonic spirit, or that of a woman cracking up and losing her mind. Director Jennifer Kent doesn’t make either viewpoint definite and there’s a lot of clues and suggestions that could have various interpretations … but I’d personally steer towards the latter. For a horror movie however this plays things overly safe, get’s quite creepy at times (The Babadook resembles various childhood ghouls) but nothing to keep you awake at night (or spill your popcorn). The young actor playing the little boy drifts between intentionally annoying to quite likeable, yet Essie Davis as Amelia turns in a very powerful and layered performance that certainly made this movie for me.
It’s overall impact was lessened due to the lack of true horror (despite potential), yet with intelligent direction and a strong lead performance … I still got a lot out of this.
Verdict: 3.5 /5