The Babadook

(The gistThe Babadook began by striking at real life fears I could easily crawl inside and entertain; then it advanced by introducing the malicious Babadook. The creature is frightening and unnerving. Even with the slow burn pace and abbreviated ending, I thoroughly enjoyed it.)

Imagine you are in active labor. The pain from the contractions spirals out from your spine as your body feel like it is imploding on itself. You feel a terrifying rush of panic and excitement before the blinding pain returns.

What could be worse than that?

Maybe your husband dies in a car accident as he drives you to the hospital, leaving you alone with the child he will never meet at possibly the most emotional time of your life.

What could be worse than that?

Maybe, seven years later, your child is so disobedient and ill-behaved that you have to remove him from his school and your own sister won’t even be around him, leaving you all alone to deal with your child and dead husband.

What could be worse than that?

Maybe your son starts ranting hysterically about a malicious spirit that is in your house and stalking him, that will kill you all. His tirades become so strong that you have to medicate him to sleep.

What could be worse than that?

Maybe your son is not lying.

The Babadook is a horror movie of worse and worse case scenarios. Amelia starts by losing her husband in a car crash as he drives her to deliver their son, Samuel. Then when Samuel is seven, his behavior causes her endless problems with his school, her work, and their family. Samuel rants and raves and violently prepares for a monster he calls the Babadook, depicted in a children’s book he finds in the house.

When Amelia learns her son does not have a vivid imagination and the Babadook emerges, let the horror movie begin!

The Babadook came to me both recommended and discouraged. I heard it was awesome, and I heard it was horrible. This left me approaching the film neutrally, but it did not matter; the movie captivated me.

The Babadook is practically the definition of a slow burn, yet instead of becoming boring, it is well crafted. The plot is about suspense, doubt, waiting to find out what is real and what is child embellishment.

For me, The Babadook is built on a foundation of real life fear. The premise terrifies me. The idea of losing my partner while giving birth to our child might be the worst thing I can imagine. Dealing with the daily horrors of parenting and disobedient children is always scary. I fully empathized with Amelia. It took no effort for me to be utterly rapt in her circumstance as if it were my own.

Then launching from the fears all too close to home, The Babadook is genuinely creepy. Creepy as hell. The creature manifests at the proper pace to both maintain interest and also unnerve. The sound it made had me cringing, and the imagery of the clown-like face and sharp clawed fingers is frightening in itself.

I enjoyed the entire film. My one complaint would be the ending. I will not go into details to avoid spoilers; however, I found it rather anti-climactic. After such a slow, gradual, and deliberate development, things seem “resolved” in almost an instant. I needed more ultimate struggle; I needed more payoff for all the emotional and temporal investment.

Yet, at this end, it did not even matter. Slow, anti-climactic. Even with these potential flaws, it masterful horror.