Movie Review - The Babadook
The Babadook, named after writer/director Jennifer Kent’s fantastical creature can only be characterized as a dark exploration of grief, psychosis, and an unmitigated disaster created by the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and her unusual son. The story begins with Amelia, played by the very talented Essie Davis, waking up from a recurring nightmare about the car accident that killed her husband, leaving her the task of raising her son Samuel. As the movie progresses, viewers are shown the there is something very sick in this particular family unit. The titular Babadook, makes his appearance in the form of a children’s book, and is established as being the darkness that is creeping into their family home.
If this movie can be praised for anything, it’s Cinematographer Radek Ladczuk’s use of light and darkness to illustrate the animosity between Amelia and Samuel. The aesthetic choice of using a primarily muted color palate coupled with both subtle and startling color shifts, is able to aptly manipulate the various moods in the film. This film is entirely atmospheric to the point wherein I forgot there was even a demonic Babadook looming in the shadows. Director Kent does an excellent job of building tension between Amelia and Samuel, and showing Amelia’s slow descent into psychosis.
That being said, the final act of this film is somewhat of a mess. If this film suffers from anything, it’s a burden of symbolism. This film could have gone in several directions, but Kent chose to take her film in all of them at once, leaving me feeling cheated that all of the ideas established in the film’s exposition were explored shallowly and tied hastily into a conclusion.
Overall this is not a bad film, nor is it a great film. The Babadook is technically sound, smartly filmed, well-acted, and impressive in its own right. The story line is what really makes this film suffer; in short there are too many ideas, symbols, and themes playing out at once, and unfortunately the director wasn’t able to give credence to a single one.
- T.C. McKeever