Director : Jennifer Kent
Writer : Jennifer Kent
Often horror movies will start in an idyllic setting , or at the very least have a hopeful premise, that makes the inevitable decline more vivid. Not The Baboodook though. It starts inside a nightmare, wakes to a horrible daily existence and that’s all before the Babadook even turns up.
Essie Davis plays Amelia as a washed out widowed mother who becomes increasingly strung out as the movie goes on. When she wakes from the nightmare of the car accident that killed her husband (while she was in labor no less!), her real life seems just as grim. She is struggling to cope with her wayward six year old and work life at the nursing home is as depressing as it sounds. To top things off, she doesn't even let her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) celebrate his birthday on on the actual day. Wouldn't want to take the gloss of the anniversary of her husbands death now would you? So cheery.
Samuel has some issues. He's that kid having a tantrum on the supermarket floor, that boy in the playground that you herd your own kids away from - he’s the one in The Slap that actually gets slapped. Amelia doesn’t know what to do with him. His fear of monsters 'coming to get them' keeps her up at night.. When he gets kicked out of school and they discover the mysterious children’s book "Mister Babadook " one night, things go from bad to worse and soon the Mother begins to take on the fears of the Child.
Samuel is a super creepy kid and you presume he was cast entirely for his scared look. It’s impressive. And so is Essie Davis, who’s performance carries the film. She has to swing in quite a number of different directions and does them all convincingly. While the rest of the cast is fairly scant, the feeling of isolation helps the tension.
Eventually Amelia takes Samuel to the doctor and they are both prescribed sedatives until he can be assessed by a psychiatrist. From there we are left to wonder if the strange noises they hear, and odd things they see, are real or drug fuelled hallucinations. It's not yet clear whether the worst monsters are the ones that come in from outside or the ones we create for ourselves.
It’s not stated where they are (it feels like Adelaide), but it doesn’t really matter. Most of the action takes place in their rambling old house, with its creaky stair case and foreboding basement door. The windows always seem to be open so you have to assume the Babadook is just as scary for mozzies as he is for humans. The story hints heavily at the unprocessed grief of Amelia. Does that grief manifest itself as a eight foot, long armed monster and is the monsters purpose to remind her not to forget those that remain?
Whatever The Babdooks purpose, the movie is as creepy as shit. There's something about using a children's book to foreshadow the horror that speaks to the scared six year old in all of us. Nightmare on Elm Street used the children’s sing-song to similar effect.
At the lowest moment, when things are at their absolute worst, Samuel chooses love over fear. He offers a hug and a stroke of the cheek instead of violence. Perhaps buried deep beneath all of the horror there’s a lesson there for all of us.