December 4, 2014 -- I'm not a fan of horror films, but this one is special. Truth is, I wouldn't have watched it at all except that it was getting such good reviews and I've got an annual movie awards voting deadline coming up soon (way too soon). I am glad I saw this. It is a truly great horror film. It makes my top 10 list for this year.
While this is not like most of those cheap horror films they make nowadays, like “Ouija,” it is solidly in the horror genre. The basic story is not all that different from classic horror films like “The Shining.” This is a story about a woman, Amelia (played by Essie Davis of “The Matrix Revolutions”) and her six-year-old son, Sam (Noah Wiseman of “The Gift”), who have never gotten over the death of Sam's father, who died in a car accident while driving Amelia to the hospital on the day Sam was born.
Sam's behavior is so erratic and dangerous that school officials decide Sam has to be put in a special classroom with close adult supervision. Amelia objects to this and takes Sam out of school and keeps him home. At this time, a strange book appears, titled The Babadook. Sam asks Amelia to read it to him before bed. The book has disturbing words and pop-up images.
Neither Amelia or Sam get much sleep after reading the book. Sam was always prone to thinking there were monsters under the bed or in the closet, but now it is worse. He becomes obsessed with the Babadook. He makes weapons to kill it and becomes aggressive, frightening other children and adults. At first, it seems like Sam is going crazy. Later, it seems like Amelia is going crazy and Sam is the more normal one.
Amelia rips out the pages from the book, tears them up and puts them in the trash. The book mysteriously reappears on the front step, the pages glued back together, but the words and images are even more ominous than they were before. Amelia burns the book, but this doesn't get rid of the Babadook. There are strange sounds at night in the house, now haunted. Ominous things start to happen. It seems that the Babadook has gotten inside of Amelia. She becomes frightening to Sam, who believes his mother to be possessed by an evil spirit.
This looks like a psychological thriller, and it is, but it also seems to have a certain supernatural element, that may, or may not be, real. The line between reality and hallucination is blurred in the film. At one point, Amelia tells some social workers who are investigating Sam's situation at home that “we had some things to work out.” That is putting it very mildly. To the extent there is a monster in the film, it is shown very minimally. It is perhaps a real creature and perhaps a construct of the subconscious mind.
The acting in this film is superb by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. Essie Davis shows a dazzling array of emotions as she spirals into madness. Noah Wiseman makes some truly crazy faces. I don't think I've ever seen a child actor do such a convincing job of looking and acting crazy. Writer/director Jennifer Kent has created a modern horror masterpiece in this film. It is about as creepy as creepy can get. No cheap scares here with sudden loud noises. There is not much blood and no gore in this horror film. There is nothing in it that can't be explained away by psychology. It is all possible, which makes it even more scary. This film rates an A.
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