Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Babadook - Unsettling, Demented.....Scary

I have been anxiously waiting to see the Australian indie horror film The Babadook for months.  The film received widespread critical acclaim after it premiered at Sundance last year.  Since then it has flown under the radar and recently I finally had the opportunity to sit down and watch it.  For the first time in years, I felt incredibly unsettled while watching the film.  The dark, ominous house in which most of the film takes place contributes to a heavy sense of dread which is ever present throughout the movie.  The depression and subsequent psychological issues felt by the two main characters is a constant force which weighs heavily on the viewer and contributes to the overall sense of doom which permeates each and every scene.  The films protagonists, Amelia and her son Sam have been trying to maintain a normal life after the death of Amelia’s husband on the way to the hospital the night Sam was born.  Since then, Amelia has never been the same.  Deeply depressed and wallowing in regret and resentment, Amelia’s demeanor has no doubt rubbed off on Sam his entire life.  Sam has trouble sleeping and has psychological issues, undoubtedly from living with a mother who subconsciously blames him for the death of her husband.  After Sam asks Amelia to read him a strange pop-up book from his bookshelf entitled “Mister Babadook” things begin to take a turn for the worse.  Slowly, Amelia and Sam fall prey to a dark entity that is constantly following the two, day and night.  Despite Amelia’s attempts to destroy the book, the evil tomes message remains true… “You can’t get rid of the Babadook”.  The concept of the pop-up book I found to be wonderfully demented.  Such an innocent child’s toy is used to represent unimaginable horrors as the book changes to reflect the Babadook’s increasing influence over Amelia.  While instances of “shock” are few and far between, the films strength is in its ability to convey a sense of dread.  The viewer is sucked into the sleep deprived paranoia that begins to fuel Amelia’s descent into madness.  Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide who and or what the Babadook is.  Left open to interpretation, the meaning behind to monster’s sudden appearance is something which adds to the unsettling feeling throughout the course of the film.  While this often doesn’t work (at least in my opinion) here it is absolutely necessary.  This isn’t a demon.  It isn’t a ghost or a poltergeist.  It’s not a physical being.  It’s all of those things and none of them at the same time.  It manifests in situations where it can thrive and thus becomes a direct product of the hatred and resentment which exudes from Amelia herself.  In a way, she is the Babadook.  Or at least that was this viewer’s humble interpretation.  You’ll have to sit through the uneasy fright fest yourself to form your own opinion. 

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