In “The Babadook,” the bogeyman in this movie is especially frightening, on a level that will have you wrestling with your own demons. And you never really see it. Even though you do. As fast as you may find yourself on the verge of exposing a trusty horror movie trope, this film moves faster. It certainly doesn’t shirk from one of the biggest tropes of them all: the conflict between being normal versus being different.
What if that troubled little boy, Samuel, could just get with the program and act normally? Maybe there’s some medication he could take to control him? But what if medication is far from what is needed here? Samuel (played by Noah Wiseman) has a compelling answer to that as the film’s focus, its lightning rod.
It’s a classic, even primal, conflict. What do you do with those members in society who are deemed to be a problem? Depending upon what time and place in history, that person might have been hidden away, drowned, burned, basically gotten rid of. Today, show enough signs of anti-social behavior and you may still find yourself in a very dark place. Amelia, and her six-year-old son, Samuel, have found themselves in a dark place that, by no fault of their own, is becoming progressively darker. Given enough time, the two of them will be consumed by pitch black darkness. In Amelia (played by Essie Davis), we see a woman doing everything humanly possible just to fit in, be normal.
We have here a classic chestnut: the mighty house, that leaves in question who is in charge, the house or its so-called, “owner.” Amelia, we see from the outset, is barely in charge of herself. Director/writer Jennifer Kent wrings out new life from this old plot device. Amelia must struggle at every turn in attempting to live within the norm. She is still trying to recover from the devastating loss of her husband, in a car accident on the night of her son’s birth. She’s expected to have picked up the pieces after six years. But, if it were so easy, then why does her boy act so strangely?
This is a very inventive and clever film that transcends the horror genre by keeping true to its own poetic sensibility. The Babadook is simply going to play by its own rules, rules you haven’t seen before, and that results in some very satisfying chills.
“The Babadook” opens in North American theaters on November 28, 2014. Visit the Babadook website right here.