Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
August 1st, 2015

The Babadook

The Babadook
Directed by Jennifer Kent
Written by Jennifer Kent
Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall
93 mins

I have been looking forward to this one since I first saw the trailer for it several years ago. But movies anticipated for years can sometimes be quite the letdown when they actually show up. Will "The Babadook" be worth the wait?

"The Babadook" follows a young mother and recent widow who must now raise her son alone. But her son isn't exactly taking things well either, as evidenced by his sudden fear of monsters in the house. One monster in particular, actually: a storybook figure known as the Babadook. The young man takes it upon himself to defend the homestead, even engineering his own surprisingly brutal weapons. His mother, frightened for the young man's sanity, is convinced that there is no Babadook afoot...until she discovers that the storybook monster may be more real than she thought.

A premise creepy enough for two, this is hard to pass up. You see now, of course, why I was as interested in this as I was. Why shouldn't I be? After all, it's a creepy concept; no one ever believes the children who say there's a monster in the bedroom, because on the surface it's insane. But what if there ever were one? What would we do if those childhood fears we thought we'd conquered came back on us? Oh sure, we say, it'd be different. After all, we have cell phones and burglar alarms and shotguns. What have we to fear from the beasties and boogums of the night?

Indeed...what do we?

Starting to feel that twinge of dread? Of creeping doubt on little cat feet? What if it laughs at our shotguns? What if the police are just next to fall into the maw of nightmare? Creepy? You bet. It only gets worse when we discover that the kid has some very serious problems, or at least looks like he does. Maybe he's just particularly exuberant, but I've never seen what looks like a five year old able to make a one-handed crossbow pistol out of bits of junk from around the house.

Even better is the book that contains the story of the Babadook. It gets progressively creepier until it goes so wildly off the rails--it's actually a pop-up book of sorts, and the Babadook in pop-up mode is mostly just a black shadow with teeth--that it freaked me out, and I'm a grown man. But what's even better, if such a thing is possible, is the very next scene. After they get through the book about the Babadook--which is really the last thing you want to read a five year old before bed (but to Mom's credit, she had not clue one what was in it)--the very next scene is every light in the house on and Mom trying frantically to calm down a still-screaming little boy with the happiest book ever read and failing miserably.

A host of incredibly creepy moments follows, with some of the creature effects reminding me of the first "Boogeyman" title. There are a few similarities between that one and this, except this one ratchets up the creepy to some very high levels. Basically, the jaded horror buff should get by rather nicely on this one; it's strong stuff. Admittedly, the last ten minutes of this are going to stretch the boundaries of sheer stupid, but only for a bit, until it turns into the single strangest twist I've seen in a long time.

Special features here include your choice of English or Spanish subtitles, a look at the book from the movie, a tour of the house set, featurettes on the effects work and stunts, a behind the scenes featurette, and a trailer for "The Babadook."

A book that's like some kind of nightmare in print, positively staggering creature effects, and a set of great performances from a mother who sells "frazzled" like you could buy it by the gallon and a little boy who's practically the poster child for mental illness all combine and make "The Babadook" easily one of the most outright terrifying horror movies I've seen in a good long while.