From the moment the opening titles are over and the film is underway, something is immediately off about the film. The audience is instantly thrown into the middle of a bad dream. we focus on a woman as a car is crashing, and a blurred voice keeps yelling "mom" as this woman is being jerked around in the car. Its the most surreal and disturbing image I have seen all year, and as the woman woke up from her dream, this movie was just getting started.
The woman is named Amelia (Essie Davis), a widow her tends to her six-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Samuel is constantly getting in trouble at school and does not seem to get along with the other children at school. It seems that Amelia is having a tough time raising the boy. The dream sequence at the beginning of the film teaches us that Amelia's husband died in the car-crash in which he was taking Amelia to the hospital to give birth to Samuel. A piece of that traumatic event seems to live inside Amelia, and she can't allow herself to heal. All the while Samuel has a hard time growing up. One night, Samuel finds a mysterious book on his bookshelf called "Mister Babadook," a pop-up storybook which gives Samuel nightmares. It seems The Babadook wants in the house, but for what purpose? Samuel is deeply affected by the book, and Amelia is reluctant to give into her son's agony.
Until shit starts hitting the fan...
What makes "The Babadook" so fun is how simple the set up is. The entire movie is pretty much these two in the house with the most frightening looking ghoul to ever haunt film in awhile. I love that this is a movie based entirely on mood and atmosphere and not blood. I won't say that there is not any blood, but most of the scares come from the creepy setting this movie slowly but systematically pushes forward. There is so much tension that builds up over the course of the film that I found the terror unrelenting.
I also loved the film never once allows you to relax. There are so many surreal moments, so many creepy moments and so many unsure moments that you won't know whether or not you are going to be scared or not. The movie is constantly trying to keep you on your toes. It is constantly trying to keep your heart racing, keep you guessing to what is about to happen. Plus, the subject matter of a mom being unable to help her only son, heartbreaking material. When I wasn't being scared out of my mind, I just felt sad for this poor family.
The work done by Davis and Wiseman is absolutely tremendous. Davis' transition over the course of the film is the real reason to see it. How she changes over the film and how the events of the film begin to creep on her character is outstandingly handled. I also loved how Wiseman was not playing the ordinary scared kid. I love that he is proactive about trying to stop The Babadook's plan and trying to keep his mother safe. I felt I could really relate to the characters and the subtle empathy was enriching.
This maybe a weird time of the year for this kind of film, but damn, I am glad I saw it.
FINAL GRADE: A