Movie Review: The Babadook

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Without question, this is hands down 2014’s best movie title.  It’s just fun to say.  Babadook.  Babadook.  Babadooooook.  BABADOOK.  Baaaaaaaabaaaaaaaaadoooooooook.  I was watching it in the same room with my fiance as she was doing some schoolwork, and I was narrating the movie to her out loud (probably distracting her greatly), just saying “Babadook” as much as I could, *because* I could.  Oh yes, I’m that annoying in real life, you guys.

If you *MUST* know anything past the name of this film, The Babadook is a horror movie about a single mom who lives with her troubled child (and wow, he is unbearably irritating) in their creepily lit house, and early on in the film we’re given the knowledge that the dad died in a car crash while driving the mom to the hospital to deliver their baby.  Out of nowhere one day (in present day), a mysterious children’s book shows up in the house, “Mister Babadook”; it’s a frighteningly illustrated pop-up book about a grim-looking guy in a top hat who threatens to torment them at night.  Over the course of the movie I got to yell “BABADOOK!” loudly in our bedroom every time he showed up on-screen or did some ghoul tricks.  It was great (for me).

It’s much more of a psychological horror film than a jump scare filled one.  It leans more towards creepy than legitimately scary.  In fact, I don’t even remember there being too many jump scares at all.  Which is a welcome change of pace.  It’s not too much of a surprise that this movie was filmed outside of America, because it wasn’t just some assholes with GoPros strapped to their heads shaking the camera violently while running down a dark hallway and yelling.  The Babadook used an ever-increasing sense of tension and (proper) lack of clear visual terror to make us, ya know, have to think about the scares in our own mind, and not just have ghosts lunging at a camera the entire time (to be fair, Babadook at one moment like that, but I’ll let it slide in the scheme of things).  If you actually see the movie, you’ll notice many more interesting “off camera” type scares than dumb ones.  You’re observing people’s reactions to what the audience is not seeing, instead of having to deal with a probably terrible-looking turd of a ghost that will make you laugh.  However, the filmmakers unfortunately overused a stock dinosaur sound effect that always took me out of the moment.  It was probably royalty free!

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It was pretty easy to decipher the overall theme of the project, with Babadook probably not even being an actual ghost and likely being a metaphor for the mom and son’s dark depression and anxiety.  Or it could be a ghost!  You can decide for yourself!  (psssst…  it’s totally a metaphor).  Babadook’s overall lack of common horror clichés and downright art house treatment of the genre will probably turn casual horror fans away.  I could see someone who likes Saw IV and Paranormal Activity 5 watching this and going “It was boring and not scary!  It sucked!”  But if you are capable of watching a (still decently paced) psychological horror thriller that possibly requires a little outside interpretation, and you can look at the ending as something more than just face value; you might get something out of it.  I did.  It has some great cinematography, too.  And a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score.  It’s a decent movie for a very specific type of horror fan that I can’t really describe very well.

8 out of 10

(quietly coughs into hand)

 

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5 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Babadook

  1. Wish says:

    Gonna have to check this out. Mr. Babadook looks like Red Skeleton in blackface hopped up on crack. I’m sold. Thanks for the awesome reviews as alerts always.

  2. sid says:

    i think the stock sound effects (the power ranger megazord and others) were put there intentionaly.
    the monster is a creation of the mother, so it’s not weird to have him reproduce sound of her own environment (old movies, cheesy old serie and shows …)
    in fact i think it’s pretty ingenious idea to use these sounds, as it helps to explain the nature of the monster. not an original creation with its own voice and form, but a creation of one particular mind using whatever parts it founds in the dark corners of the mother inconscious.
    Nah, you definitely cannot nitpick on the sound choices, they were perfect to carry the movie’s message.
    (im french so feel free to nitpick my english :p)

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