I’m having trouble recalling an expression… Ah yes, I remember. It goes: don’t judge a book by its cover.
Well, in the case of The Babadook movie, I almost did and almost didn’t. What I mean is, I almost did judge a book by its cover and I almost didn’t watch it.
But on an evening when I felt I needed inspiration, I sprang for the nearly $7 to rent this movie from Amazon Instant Video (here’s where I found it). An outlandish fee, I admit, but the horror genre seems to have dried up lately. There doesn’t seem to be anything good coming out and even the bad ones are slow to arrive.
So there I was, desperate for inspiration, which lead me to spend a lot of money to rent this film. The reviews put me up to it, although they varied widely between “Uh, I don’t get what all the fuss is about,” to “This is the best horror film I’ve seen in a long time.” Well, to the latter, I said, “Give Oculus a try. It’s not too bad, actually.” Well, I didn’t literally say it, but you know what I mean. I’m pretty savvy at detecting shills and the “best horror film” reviews seemed authentic and sincere, so I went for it.
As I said, I almost passed this one up and would have done so purely based on the title and the artwork promoting the movie. Childish is the one-word description that comes to mind. You know I must have been desperate since I overrode my instincts and coughed up the dough based on a few promising reviews like “the best horror movie of the 2014.” (Ha ha, come to think of it, “childish” is exactly what I thought about Mama at first, and I was wrong about that one, too.)
First, I have to say that this movie IS taught. From the very first scene, you feel like there is something very wrong going on or something very bad about to happen. That is probably the strongest quality of the movie, its tone.
Second, while there is the boogieman element of children’s stories, it goes way beyond that to scares that even adults like me find freaky. In that regard, it is a very effective instrument of the horror genre.
Next, this is a very hard film to talk about without spoiling it, but it was either luck that the makers of this film put this together the way they did, or it was brilliance. The ending (no spoilers, don’t worry) could be taken at face value or you could experience a delayed reaction to it like I did where the meaning reveals itself to you gradually. In my mind, the ending could mean one of two things, but I’m not sure. It will likely require another watch so I can look for clues I may have missed the first time around.
Now that I’ve said all that, here’s the plot which is not too unusual, actually:
A man is killed in a car accident while taking his wife to the hospital to deliver their baby. The child (Samuel) is born and then raised by his mother (Amelia). He is an only child and she is a loving, single parent. At the age of six, where this movie begins, the little boy is exhibiting behavior problems of which his mother is growing very tired. Friends are alienating themselves as a result of his behavior and to be blunt, the kid is a brat who is obsessed with monsters. Because of the tension in the film, it’s easy to forget that the kid has been through a lot, but his mother is infinitely patient…to a point.
They find a book about a creature called The Babadook that warns of what happens when you let the creature in. Amelia does her duty and calms Sam down, who is immediately frightened by the story. She hides the book on a high shelf, but when the book keeps reappearing and strange noises begin occurring in the house, the mother becomes distraught and begins to unravel.
I do recommend this film, and for many it will become one for the collection. Whether you want to pay $7.00 to rent it is up to you. I’m certainly not disappointed I did and will watch it one more time, but I think I’ll wait until daytime to do so. 😉
It would be interesting to find out if you think it was a face-value film, or if it had deeper meaning which is a doesn’t happen very often in the horror genre.