Ba ba...DOOK DOOK DOOOOOUUUUHHHHK
I can count on one hand the number of horror movies made in the last 15 years (though it's probably more than that) that I actually like. After watching The Babadook, that count is still going on one hand though it is one higher.
This is a movie about a widow, Amelia, and her deeply trouble son, Samuel. The kid has nightmares, is aggressive, and generally not well liked by anyone around him other than his mother. The film does a fantastic job of putting you right at the level of stress that his mother is at right from the get go. One night Samuel (don't call him the boy!) takes a book off the shelf for his mother to read to him called Mister Babadook. What a mistake. It's a nightmarish rhyme about a terrible creature called the Babadook that, once you let him in, you can't get rid of him and you're going to die. It's like the work of deranged Dr. Seuss. Samuel's nightmares get worse and he seems to start seeing the Babadook while awake. Amelia tries to convince him it's just a book, it's not real, but everything really goes to shit when she starts to think that there really is something more sinister at work. The less said from this point, the better.
Horror films don't often have the luxury of things like a solid cast and a clear, well executed artistic vision, but The Babadook does. On that level it joins the lofty company of movies like Alien, The Shining, and Rosemary's Baby, a film I think it has quite a bit in common with. They're both slow-burn horrors and they both do this wonderful thing where for much of the movie you question whether or not what the characters think are happening really are. You sit there thinking, "Are they going crazy?" and the film does little to persuade you otherwise. Even when it becomes clear as to what's going on your thoughts shift slightly to the realm of, "No, this can't be happening." I find this storytelling trick to be infinitely admirable, keeps you on edge, and in the end is exhilarating.
While The Babadook has been critically praised, it still seems to have receive mixed reactions from viewers. I find that to be sad as this is exactly the kind of movie horror needs right now. Its vision is so fully realized, the performances are top notch and there are sequences that are truly chilling. The "horror" here is universal, anyone could fall victim to Mister Babadook, and it's this sort of thing that brings this genre to the height of its possibilities.
SCARE RATING - 3/5
OVERALL RATING - 4/5