Writer/director Jennifer Kent gave us a decent debut with The Babadook. It’s a horror movie that brings a welcome subtlety to the genre. The problem is that it’s also derivative (The Ring, The Shining, Poltergeist, Sixth Sense, The Shining, Nightmare on Elm Street, Candyman, etc.).
The way the movie deals with the loss of a husband (and father) is a good premise. In the movie Rabbit Hole (Nicole Kidman) a few years ago, I enjoyed how they had family and friends trying to talk to the grieving couple. This movie has a mother and daughter dealing with other relatives, and a rather compassionate neighbor with Parkinson’s.
The film has great atmosphere, and it’s a blast watching the old horror movies on TV. Yet when you get to the half way point, you start to realize there will never be any really big payoffs, or any great scares.
Essie Davis (Australia, Girl with a Pearl Earring) is outstanding in the role of Amelia. Her husband died while driving her to the delivery room. Her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) does a fine job in his role. He can be cute and smart ; most of the times though, he’s throwing a fit, with a mouth that looks like a young Mick Jagger. He hates that kids make fun of him for not having a dad. His mother hates that he’s a constant reminder of that horrific day.
The various weapons Samuel makes are cute, but you grow tired of his monster imagination running amok. One night, when the bedtime ritual of reading a book arrives, there’s one called “Mister Babadook.” It’s a creepy pop-up, with a monster that taunts the readers.
When Amelia grows tired of…being tired (and dealing with her son), she starts saying some rather horrible things to him. There comes a time when you wonder if perhaps all of this is her having a breakdown, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Movies are a lot more fun when people interpret them various ways.
If you’re somebody that sees every horror movie that comes out, you don’t want to miss this. If you’re looking for a really scary movie that’ll make you jump out of your seat, keep looking. This is all rather tame.
There are a few suspenseful moments, and great performances. And who doesn’t like to watch a little kid try to perform magic tricks? But ultimately, it’s a disappointment. Especially when you think back to the premise of it all and how great it could’ve been.
It’s only playing at the Digital Gym on El Cajon Boulevard, and probably not much longer.
It gets 2 stars out of 5.