Halloween Review: The Babadook

If it’s in a word or in a look
You can’t get rid of the Babadook!

The most impressive and original horror film of recent years, The Babadook stays with you, lives under your skin.

You really can’t get rid of the Babadook.

Once you see what’s underneath
You’ll wish that you were dead.

Title: The Babadook

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent
Essie Davis as Amelia Vanek
Noah Wiseman as Samuel Vanek
Daniel Henshall as Robbie
Hayley McElhinney as Claire
Barbara West as Gracie Roach
Benjamin Winspear as Oskar Vanek
Cathy Adamek as Prue
Craig Behenna as Warren
Adam Morgan as Sergeant

Available from Amazon.


The independent movie concerns a young widow, a woman whose husband died en route to the hospital while she was giving birth to their son. The child is seven now, and exhibits signs of serious behavioral problems. He blames these, in part, on a haunting. Little Samuel claims that a boogeyman-like entity lives in their house. Amelia thinks her son suffers from a psychiatric disorder, but gradually opens her eyes to the possibility of a far more sinister explanation. We see signs around the house; she starts seeing them as well. The entity receives a name from a weird children’s book that Samuel finds, one of uncertain origin and uncomfortable content. The circumstances, meanwhile, take their toll on Amelia, who can’t sleep and starts to act a little disturbed herself. What unravels onscreen may be interpreted in at least two ways. One interpretation is deeply unsettling and quietly terrifying. If that bothers you, consider the other, which is deeply unsettling and quietly terrifying:

High Points:

Does the monster really exist, or is a distraught, exhausted woman retreating into delusions? Does an otherwordly entity stalk her, or is she fabricating evidence of its existence? The film plays brilliantly with its central ambiguities. No interpretation is in any way comforting and, real or not, the monster clearly represents deeper, real-world concerns and all-too-common psychological disturbances…

Low Points:

…if anything, the film explains just a little too much about those ambiguities. I consider this objection a minor one, however.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The Boogeyman stalks some people in an old house—but the film’s spin on that old storyline counts for something.

Effects: 5/6 The Babadook features a few low-level effects, which work well, and subtly stunning sets.

Story: 5/6 While the story raises a number of questions, it moves along with its own logic, to a conclusion that proves uncomfortable, but not entirely lacking in hope.

Acting: 6/6 Essie Davis gives a distressingly credible performance as a mother facing terrifying pressures and weakening mental defenses. Some children are very hard to love. Noah Wiseman, as that child, is also outstanding. Apparently, the director gave him a “kid-friendly” (!!!) version of events and, for certain scenes, he was filmed separately of other actors and elements.

I’m going to guess he has not watched the finished product yet. I’m also relieved to hear his mother is a psychologist. That might prove handy when he finally does.

Production: 6/6 Much of the film takes place in the house, an entirely artificial set designed and lit for overall effect. While we’re in present-day Australia, aspects of the design and set create a Caligarian uncertainty regarding place and time (it’s the present, but many of the set pieces and objects are obviously dated).

Emotional Response: 6/6 The Babadook addresses real-world issues with a closeness to the bone not seen for some time in cinematic horror. It’s intense, suspenseful…

Overall: 6/6 …and mostly eschews the jump-scare, preferring to be emotionally upsetting and unsettling. If you’re a fan of horror movies, you really need to see The Babadook.

Just be prepared for the possibility you’ll be left very uneasy.

In total, The Babadook receives 37/42.

Halloween Countdown 2015

Oct. 3: It Follows (2015)
Podcast: The Thing From Another World (1951)

Oct. 10: Kuroneko (1968)
Podcast: Alien 3 (1992)

Oct 17: Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966)
Podcast: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1970)

Oct. 24: Crimson Peak (2015)
Podcast: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Oct. 31:
The Babadook (2014)
Cropsey (2009)
Podcast: Event Horizon (1997)