The Babadook (Australia 2014)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/24/15
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

A low budget Australian horror film about a single mother and her emotionally troubled son who are tormented by a supernatural creature from a children's book called "Mister Babadook." At first, the Babadook manifests itself as strange sounds and flickering lights, but it becomes much more aggressive and sinister as the film progresses. The boy's psychotic episodes become increasingly severe, which drives the physically and emotionally exhausted mother to the brink of a nervous breakdown. The final confrontation with the Babadook is ambiguous, and the resolution is confusing and unsatisfactory.

It's a good looking and well acted production that relies mostly on spooky sounds and creepy imagery to generate tension and fear. It's also a remarkably honest look at mental illness and the brutal realities of parenting. The nature of the Babadook is purposely vague and the film leaves a lot of unanswered questions. To me, the most pressing question is where did the Babadook book come from? However, it could be argued that the book isn't even real, and that the Babadook is either a figment of the boy's imagination, a symbolic representation of the mother's declining mental health, or the physical manifestation of the mother's grief for her dead husband. And even though the Babadook was defeated, it still lives in the basement (or our subconscious) as a constant reminder that it is something that needs to be monitored and managed, and will never go away. It's a thoughtful and insightful psychological horror tale, but it doesn't live up to all of the hype and accolades that have been showered upon it.