Parenthood has been a theme in horror since the invention of horror. A parent must protect their child from the horrors of the world. When that child is in danger, humans kick into pure survival mode, becoming a bestial composite of man, giving into animal instinct. But, what if being a mother itself is the real horror?
Like Eraserhead before it, The Babadook presents a scenario that paints the wonders of parenting in a less-than-flattering light. Sometimes the situation itself is not ideal and The Babadook pulls no punches in showing how hard life can be as a single mother with a difficult child. Essie Davis, as Amelia (the mother who is questioning her life and how it wound up the way it is), is fantastic at portraying the fear, hatred, anger and self-loathing that can accompany a life that is rife with struggle.
Jennifer Kent, the director of the film, raised about $30,000 of the budget through a Kickstarter campaign. The entire budget was a modest $2.5 million… which is refreshing in this age of $200 million average budgets for nothing-special action spectacles that that parade effect after effect with no responsibility to the story that’s apparently being told. The Babadook relishes the story it’s telling and wants to engulf everything in its darkness and live a life of its own.
The problem with horror is the seeming need its makers have with having to overexplain everything. Consider your average haunted house movie. A bump in the night is scary. Seeing the unexplained is terrifying. Sitting down with the audience and telling them who, what, when, where and why these paranormal goings-on are happening takes the fear, defines it and then throws it away. Fear lives in the shadows. Fear doesn’t want to be given an agenda.
A mysterious book shows up at Amelia’s house, titled after the monster, containing rhymes about the Babadook coming to get her child. She rips it up and throws it away, only to have it reemerge later on her front doorstep with the torn-up paged repaired and more and more passages are finding its way into the book… it seems to be writing itself. Why this is happening isn’t important. How it’s happening doesn’t need to be explained; it’s magic. It’s horror. It’s something evil. We know about as much as she does, and that puts us in her shoes and it makes the horror even more real and palpable.
The Babadook is one of the very best horror movies to come out in 2014. Hell, it might even be one of the best dramas to come out this year. It is one of the most emotional and sincere movies that’s legitimately about something to have come out in a while. Motherhood and the fear that accompanies it are given a dark metaphor, dressed up in a terrifying silhouette and run amok. It takes a lot to scare a horror fan these days, when so much top-shelf entertainment is available at any given time. The Babadook succeeds marvelously with a dedication to atmosphere, direction and performance. There is very, very little actual on-screen gore on display.
Currently, The Babadook is available on Video on Demand for about $7. That’s less than what it costs to go out to the movies. Grab your loved ones, grab your favorite blanket, turn off the lights and watch this movie. A movie that takes pride in creation, imagination and actual scares needs to be celebrated. If this sounds like your cup of tea, go ahead and give it a rent and check it out.