An independent Australian production, the critics appear to be raving about The Babadook, but honestly I thought it was hopeless.
Single mother Amelia struggles to cope with her six year old son named Samuel who appears to have violent, antisocial behavior. When a book called “Mister Babadook” mysteriously comes into their possession, things go from bad to worse as an unseen entity haunts them. Is it all in their imagination?
I went into The Babadook with absolutely no idea what it was or what it was about. A five-star rating from Empire certainly made me invested in seeing it.
The film is a slow boil. If the audience is looking for the next Insidious or even a new Woman in Black, they will be sorely mistaken and will quickly become restless. But this isn’t where the film lost me. The Babadook does well in setting up two characters who are both unhappy and deeply troubled, our actors Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are great at invoking unease and bringing a lot of physical acting into their roles. Also the best, best part of this film is surely the “Mister Babadook” book itself, a creepy, demented children’s pop-up book which is wonderfully designed. There’s little wrong with the setup of this film, even if it does feel at times like an episode of Kids say the Darndest Things.
But things quickly go downhill after the first forty minutes or so. The story is only ninety minutes long but it feels like an eternity by the time the third act swings around. While Noah Wiseman’s Samuel is believably weird, after so much screaming and yelling you become apathetic to him, and when things finally begin to happen the film immediately cheapens itself. Our wait through domestic troubles and the alienation from our characters’ friends is rewarded with some of the most cliche horror beats and unintentionally funny and awkwardly paced scenes. I’d say it was all intentionally funny if it weren’t for the volume of critics and audiences claiming it is genuinely terrifying…
The Babadook is an independent film, as I said, and I appreciate that, but they ignored a far more terrifying end to this story (an ending more likely within their budget too) and chose a more straight-forward, cliche, horror movie finale. I was never frightened or on the edge of my seat throughout this movie, and the pay-off was completely absurd and laughable after the inexorably long build up.
The best I can say about it at the end of the day is: great acting, good potential in the story and a unique creature. Just a shame it was so badly implemented.
Additional Marshmallows: I just like saying the word Babadook.