Summary: A character from a children’s book comes alive, terrorizing an emotionally unstable, recently-widowed mother and her son.
Review: Art-house horror is always a risk and Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook goes full throttle for a mix of terror, drama and polish. As a director, Kent surely has a future on the big screen: her eye for photography is sharp and she clearly knows how to build atmosphere. As for the story ofÂ The Babadook, no amount of style can redeem the ridiculous plot holes, annoying characters, exhaustive clichĂ©s and, worst of all, lack of scares. The Babadook takes itself too seriously and gets lost in its own polish. The film strives for horror in the way of The Shining or Silence of the Lambs, but it’s more like Annabelle with better cinematography, which isn’t a compliment.
Considering the rave reviews, one would think The Babadook is another Exorcist. Don’t be fooled by the hype. Even with solid acting and a gifted director, the Australian flick is identical to any film about a creepy kid with a neurotic parent (2005’s Hide and Seek, 2011’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the list is endless), you’ve yawned through it all before. There are some promising moments, especially when the “monster,” Babadook, makes an appearance forty minutes into the picture. But, despite the title, the film is less about BabadookÂ and more about a mother and her disturbed son. It’s a cinematic bait and switch.
The terror from the actors feels real, but for a genre film, Kent is too obsessed with the backstory of the characters with the thrills never kicking in. The majority of the filmÂ is Amelia (Essie Davis) stumbling around dark hallways, jumping out of bed, manically crying and screaming at her child. The final blow is a shockingly disappointing ending.
Considering some of the awful horror flicks this year, like Annabelle and Ouija, The Babadook isn’t completely a dud. But the film ultimately misses the bullseye in satisfying horror fare.
The Babadook is in select cities now.