Horror movies don’t usually scare me. Most of them are shabbily made, relying on cheap jump scares and cleverly used sound effects. But not ‘The Babadook’. It is genuinely scary, refreshingly original and surprisingly moving. And easily the best horror film since ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Others’. Possibly, one of the best horror films ever made. I know its high praise, but ‘The Babadook’ completely deserves it considering horror films are usually easy to make — it is not difficult to scare people — and therefore, not properly conceived. Contrarily, ‘The Babadook’ is not only well conceived, but also very well written. That it transcends the genre and becomes a moving story of a mother and her son is a testimony to its brilliantly written screenplay.
‘The Babadook’ is the story of a single mother, Amelia, who is still plagued by the death of her husband that happened in an accident six years ago on the same day her son, Sameul, was born. She is also struggling with her son’s unusual behavior and his fascination with monsters. Things start going even more awry after she finds a book called ‘The Babadook’, which Sameul wanted her to read for him. As strange things happen one after another, Amelia faces a monster who has crept into her house, her mind and is trying to destroy her life including her son. But is it really a monster ? Or is it the demons of her past ? Or is just her inner fears ? Whatever it is, you will have to watch the film to decide for yourself.
The brilliance of ‘The Babadook’ is not just in the scares it generates, but also lies in its ambiguities. Yes, there is a monster in the film known by name of Babadook, which can be conventionally looked at as the troop to generate the thrills and the scares — and believe me, Babadook, the black-hatted monster, is chillingly creepy — but on careful examination, you will realize that the monster could be just a metaphor of the inner demons that every individual has. When that deep-lying fear — which in the case of Amelia is her horrific past — troubles you day in and day out, it may manifest itself into something more tangible that you may have never imagined. And the best way to deal with your inner demons may be in accepting its presence, instead of running away from it or denying it. Once you accept it, it could be easier to deal with and even, tame it.
For a film that is so frightening and suspenseful, credit must be given to writer/director Jennifer Kent for making ‘The Babadook’ surprisingly emotional. The relationship and bond between a mother and a son is an unbreakable one, and that comes across so beautifully, even though in horrific circumstances, that don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two. It is this emotional core, combined with a clever storytelling, that make ‘The Babadook’ one of the best movies of this year.