Movie: The Babadook
My Rating: 4 stars
There was so much buzz surrounding this movie that I had to go out and see it in the theater right away. Everyone said that it was one of the first very scary movies they’d seen in a long time, and I like that kind of thing. Actually I have a very complicated relationship with scary movies. I burn with curiosity when I hear about them, and I want to know what will happen in the story enough to go out and pay money to see them. But, I also dread the whole experience at the same time. Watching scary movies is always so tense. And, I just know I’m going to have nightmares, at least on the first night. And, that’s exactly what happened this time. But, I keep going to see these things, so I guess I like them.
The atmosphere in this movie is really tense and creepy, but it isn’t necessarily “scary.” Although, it was intense enough to keep my heart pounding pretty steadily throughout the movie. The film is set in a very dark, creaky house, which adds to the spooky atmosphere. A single mother lives there with her high maintenance, and potentially emotionally disturbed, little boy. The whole atmosphere in the house is very tense. Floorboards groan, doors swing open and shut, the furnace knocks, and every corner is filled with shadows. And, the script is always just ambiguous enough about whether this is just an old house with its regular creaking and settling, whether the characters’ imaginations are running wild, or whether something truly sinister is actually afoot. And, I really appreciated that gentle touch.
But either way, no one seems to be getting very much sleep in this house. It’s an insomniac’s nightmare! Mother and son shuffle through their days as living zombies, ready to fall apart at any moment. So, the situation only gets worse when a very weird children’s book shows up at their house one day. Neither one of them is ever going to be able to sleep again after reading that creepy, rhyming story about a strange creature that secretly lives in their house, just waiting for the right moment to sneak up and kill them. That’d have you second-guessing every bump in the night. It’s a dreadful situation—perfect horror movie fodder.
The dread and anticipation is always the scariest element of a horror movie. And, seeing this movie in the theater helped heighten those elements for me. I’d definitely recommend seeing this movie on the big screen. And, I thought that director Jennifer Kent got the tone just right. She trusts the audience to be able to put the pieces together for themselves. She doesn’t cheapen the story with too much exposition. I was quite impressed. Of course, I still had all the inevitable scary dreams that I anticipated, but it wasn’t so bad that it prevented me from getting out of bed to go to the bathroom in the dark in the middle of the night. I was able to calmly remind myself that the story was a metaphor for mental illness, and that there was no creature hiding in the corner, waiting to consume my soul. Sweet dreams!