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THE BABADOOK (2014)

the-babadook-poster-review-the-babadook-2014Being afraid of what’s under your bed or the monster in the closet is something most kids have faced growing up – whether you were ready to fight or flight, you knew something was there…waiting. Spending many sleepless nights with nothing to keep you company but a dollar store flashlight and your bright comforter – you may have often wondered if it really is just your imagination like mom and dad said, or something else entirely.

Of course most of us grew up realizing the thing in the closet was an old coat, or the creature under the bed was a dirty sock with some dust bunnies for good times. But what if we were wrong? What if the thing we thought was there actually was and these things we dismissed it as were the red herrings the thing wanted us to believe? Now as adults, we’re ripe for the picking and just maybe one day we’ll wake up staring in the face of something we thought only existed in our nightmares. Unable to scream, unable to move, we’ll pine for that dollar store flashlight – our only protection – but will only be able to remain frozen in fear as certain doom is imminent.

It’s easier to believe that monsters don’t exist then to realize they may be right in your own home, and that’s the exact problem single mom Amelia is having. Her son Daniel very much believes in monsters, and he’s ready to fight them off at a moment’s notice. When the young boy brings his mother a strange book to read as a bedtime story, a morbid pop-up book called “Mister Babadook”, the small family of two begins to experience strange things in their home. Things that are starting the way Amelia feels about monsters, she’s starting to believe again – unfortunately, it may already be too late.babadook1

One of the core things in making a horror movie work is having someone to root for. You have to, at least to some extent, like the characters you’re going to be spending the next 90 or so minutes with and at the very least find one or two that have enough redeeming qualities that you want to see them making it to the final reel. When you have a small cast, it’s even more important to have characters you’re really rooting for or at the very least sympathize for. In most cases, the least sympathetic characters can be, well kids – I can’t count how many horror films have annoying kids we just wanna see get slaughtered or at the very least sent off to Grandma’s while things “cool down” – thank you Tobe Hooper.

This film unfortunately suffers from having one of the most annoying doe eyed little pricklets I think I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to pretend to care about. From the first five minutes, he made me want good ol’ Mr. Babadook to take him into whatever closet he was hiding in and be rid of him. To my surprise my sentiment was shared by a majority of the supporting cast and in a less than shocking reveal; his mother in many respects as well. If the point was to make this kid unlikable, congratulations – you win.babadook3

While I sympathize with his mother, I also felt myself being annoyed with her actions as well. Little Daniel brings in a crossbow to school complete with a dart and her solution is to pull him out of school to go home from some milk and cookies. Go easy on him mom, he’s only showing signs of being borderline and you’re just, ya know, riding with it. Parenting at its finest.

The majority of the film is spent with Amelia convincing Daniel that Mr. Babadook isn’t real – that it’s only a story and that he needs to stop believing in monsters. It’s only until she starts to see the top hatted spook that she begins to believe herself and by that point – she’s already starting to lose her grip on reality.The-Babadook

If there’s anything I can praise about this film it’s the atmosphere. The film is riddled with dread and has a truly terrifying monster that will be sure to haunt your dreams. Mr. Babadook is wisely restricted to mostly shadows and the occasional glimpse of his twisted grin with his claws and top hat which leaves a lot up to the imagination. Considering this is a film that plays on childhood fears, you will often find yourself channeling those fears and that age old imagination which will surely send a shiver or two down your spine.BABADOOK-012

All in all, it’s not an entirely great film – at least in my opinion – good, well made and effective in many aspects; hell yes. It’s unfortunately plagued by two so-so characters, who you may occasionally feel bad for, one moreso than the other but that is its biggest downfall and unfortunately is the bulk of the film. It’s hard to care or be scared for little Daniel when he spends a majority of the film being a vile little shit who you would expect to see flipping out in the next viral video because he got the yellow fire truck and not the red. He’s annoying, unsympathetic and by the time we start to care about him – the film is almost over and it’s much too late. With a much more likeable kid, this one would have worked a lot better and easily would have been ranked up there for me to be one of the best horror films of the year. However as it stands, I’m not sure it would crack my top ten.

Don’t give it to the hype; give this one a rent first before committing to a purchase – it’s an effective horror film in many aspects for sure, however it may leave some viewers disappointed with its minimalist approach and it’s iffy leads.

Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall

THE BABADOOK is currently available to rent via VOD, iTunes and Amazon.

Written by chrismac

6 Comments

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  1. “This film unfortunately suffers from having one of the most annoying doe eyed little pricklets I think I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to pretend to care about. From the first five minutes, he made me want good ol’ Mr. Babadook to take him into whatever closet he was hiding in and be rid of him.”

    Watch it again one day, and keep in mind that the kid being unlikeable is both purposeful, and a major plot point.

    • Major plot point or not, you wanna root for characters in a film like this – not pray for their demise. I can understand the little elf being annoying and somewhat unlikable – but totally unredeemable in almost every way when he’s one of the main characters; might be the point, doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

      • It depends on whether or not you picked up on the purpose for the entire existence of the Babadook or not. I get what you’re saying, I just think people are focusing too much on not liking the kid to realize that it’s kind of the point of the whole movie.

        • It was a contributing factor for me as to why I didn’t love it as much as some have been going on about. As I mentioned in the review, if it was intentional they did a bang up job, however, doesn’t change the fact the it detered my enjoyment of the film as a whole.

          • Yeah, I gotta go with Shawn here. I’ve seen a good number of other people on horror forums and Facebook groups say similar things to what you’re saying about the characters and, in my personal opinion, that criticism shows a lack of insight. The Babadook was metaphorical in alot of ways. We’ve all hated kids at times and resented their brat-like behavior, particularly those of us who are parents. But that’s kind of a dark area of parenting that nobody talks much about. And I think that’s what alot of the film was about. And I think that’s part of what made it so brilliant. And are we really supposed to LIKE every main character in every film? Is that the purpose of horror films? To have a bunch of creepy monsters and likeable protagonists that we’re all rooting for? I think this film is progressive in the way that it made us feel about the characters. So, in this case, I totally disagree. I think The Babadook is one of the best horror films to come out in years.

          • Actually for me, yes, I do think you at the very least need
            to like somebody in the film for it to be effective. It adds to the suspense and overall horror aspect for me to care about someone then to watch them be terrified or be killed. If I could care less if someone lives or dies, the horror element is lost and it basically becomes an exercise in patience. You sit there waiting for someone you don’t like to die or get their comeuppance and an entire film with two characters that fit the bill – well, patience wears thin. Perhaps this film resonates more with parents or those who understand the feelings of parents, which apparently – is not me. While it may seem I didn’t like this film much if at all, I did like it for the most part – when it’s creepy, it’s creepy – there’s no denying that. But to wear the title of the “best horror film of 2014”, meh, I’d have to disagree. One of the better ones, sure, that I can run with, but in my opinion certainly not the best.

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