Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #18 – The Babadook (2014)

Babadook posterJoin Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: The Babadook

Year: 2014

Director: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney

Netflix Rating: 3.5 stars

Seen it before: No! And OMG am I late to this party. I remember EVERYONE was going on about this movie when it came out. Everyone said it was terrifying, and it’s been on Netflix for ages, and it’s on my “to watch list” but I still haven’t seen it. So, no time like the present.

rsz_babadook_2First Impressions: How scared should I be? It has a decent rating and looks scary. Will I need to sleep with the lights on? Should I be watching this over lunch? (This is a bad habit…) Anyway, I hope it’s good and I hope it’s scary and I hope it holds together, and I’m excited a female director is helming it. So here we go! Or and one final observation, anything called the Babadook doesn’t sound scary. Because dookie….

The Verdict: Plot first. Stressed out single mom Amelia (Davis) has to deal with her needy, annoying, son Sam (Wiseman) who is a monster obsessed discipline problem. One night Sam picks out a bedtime story called The Babadook, the book has seemingly appeared from nowhere. This of course kicks off a series of escalating supernatural assaults. Amelia finally succumbs to the Babadook and almost murders her son. But, as annoying as Sam is he has some mad monster fighting skillz. So the worst outcome is avoided, but now Amelia is stuck with an evil supernatural house pet that lives in her basement, because, “You can never get rid of the Babadook”.

rsz_babadook_3OK. There is a lot to unpack about this movie. First off, the big lesson is never have children! LOL! But seriously, it does a great job examining the darker side of motherhood. The things people don’t like to talk about, like how sometimes kids are really hard to love. The scene where Amelia’s sister flat out tells her she doesn’t like her kid felt really true in ways that a lot of saccharine family dramas never do. It’s cold and brutal and a sharp moment that puts a nail in Amelia’s isolation.

The acting is phenomenal. Essie Davis’s performance drips with agony. She’s overworked, underpaid, and can’t get a moment’s sleep. As the film goes on she grows more haggard and disheveled. The young actor playing Sam turns out a fantastic performance. In the beginning Sam is needy, clingy, and screams and kicks, basically he’s the kid on the airplane everyone hates. His obsession with home-built weapons gets him kicked out of school which means he only clings harder to his mother. This clinginess comes from the tragic shared past of mother and son. Amelia’s husband died in a car crash while driving her to the hospital the night Sam was born. Amelia is constantly reminded of the tragedy by Sam’s very existence and she is by turns, cold and supportive, but unable to settle on one.

Babadook 1The actual Babadook itself remains off-screen, unless you count the creepy/cute illustrations in the picture book which evokes it. It appears as shadowy dream creature, and empty suit of clothes, and twice as Amelia’s dead husband. Even when Amelia “tames” it and id forced to keep it in the basement the audience STILL doesn’t get a good look. I’m not sure how effective this is. Personally I love a creature feature, but there is something to be said for keeping it vague. Mostly budgetary, but maybe the audience can conjure something scarier in their mind. I was just frustrated.

But I honestly liked just about everything in this film including the color palette of cool grays, blues and browns. Definitely worth watching, although probably everyone already has…

Rating: 8/10