“Let’s have a wager
I’ll make you a bet
The more you deny…
The stronger I get!”
The Babadook may be the most creative, ingenious horror film of the past decade, but it is also a lesson in good storytelling. A film about family and the struggles of single motherhood; the consequences of self-denial; the effects of grief. It is even effective as an insight into the depressed state of mind. Needless to say it is one of the most memorable cinematic experiences I’ve had; during my first gleeful viewing I felt the film hit every beat it was aiming for, and each subsequent viewing has only reinforced my affection for it.
‘Mister Babadook’ is an entity that comes into the lives of Amelia (Essie Davis) and son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) via an ambiguous but very nicely designed children’s book (setting the tone for the remainder of the movie). Samuel’s fear of monsters – typical of any imaginative small boy – is further exasperated upon reading the picture book, and Amelia becomes increasingly frustrated with her son as she continues to deny the possibility that monsters, Mister Babadook least of all, could exist… even when the same force her son fears appears to latch onto her as well.
There is much subtext to be found in this film if one is willing to invest some thought into it. In my review a few months ago I expressed some trepidation about giving it the ‘horror’ label at all, because there are many, after all, who will be put off by its genre. I think you’ll be missing out if that’s the case, and equally I think horror fans who come into it expecting an overindulgence in ‘jump scares’ will be left somewhat disappointed. This is not a simple rehash of hollow Hollywood horror scripts; it is one that has been crafted with heart. That it comes from first time director/ writer Jennifer Kent makes it all the more fascinating, and I’m quite interested to see what she does next with her talents.
Some will frown at my placing such a recent movie among more prestigious names here, but there is little doubt in my mind that it deserves a place on this list. The question for me is whether I have placed it high enough – and I think upwards is the only direction it is set to go, in time.