The Babadook is probably one of the most disturbing horror movies I have seen in a while, not only for its masterful use of the unknown hiding in the shadows, but also for its deft use of rich three-dimensional characters that the viewer actually cares about.
The Babadook tells the story of a troubled widow and her mentally unstable and sometimes violent son. After a pop-up book called “Mister Babadook” mysteriously appears on their bookshelf, the mom reads the disturbing story (about a monster that you can’t get rid of) to her son. Soon, the boy is convinced that the real Babadook is in the house and, when more and more disturbing and unexplained things also begin happening, the mother becomes convinced too.
Looking back at the movie, I am amazed at how restrained the entire affair was. If I can say this about a movie with a closet monster in it and sound lucid, The Babadook takes a very realistic attitude… and least with the mother and son characters. Both care for each other very much, but in their own ways, they are deeply flawed and screwed up people. It makes them more real because, even if they survive the film, they’re still going to have problems to deal with which is the natural way of our screwed up world. It works in this movie because you know they’re already dealing with enough garbage already and the fact that some supernatural douchepickle just decides to start harassing them because of reasons just makes you want them to survive it that much more. It’s the old Poltergeist gimmick… give the viewer someone they actually care about and it makes the horror that much more horrible.
I love that so much of The Babadook is left up to interpretation. It works as a monster movie, but on the other hand, it works as a psychological thriller as well. After all, you can argue that the Babadook actually doesn’t exist in the movie. You can argue that it does. It works in so many wonderful ways.
The Babadook is gritty, dark, realistic, disturbing and, yes… it’s scary. Scary not in a way that you will jump in fright, but scary in that the ideas and themes presented will latch onto you like you’re own personal Babadook. Who knows? Maybe the Babadook is real and this movie is our own pop-up book, inviting him to enter.