The Australian horror film The Babadook recently made its way to the Netflix streaming library and the space under your bed will never be the same. The movie follows Amelia as she tries to soothe her son’s constant night terrors. When a mysterious book appears in the boy’s room, the story’s monster becomes real. The titular creature haunts the boy, making him increasingly hard to pacify and the mother soon follows suit. What follows is proof of the horror genre’s ability to create a true piece of art, while maintaining genuine scares.
The film’s director, Jennifer Kent, made the look and feel of the film a major priority, originally wanting to shoot the entire thing in black and white. While the classic coloring was eventually scrapped, the film still manages to maintain that feeling with sets that are dramatic, claustrophobic and dark. The art department must have gotten a good share of the film’s small budget because their gothic beauty is essential to bringing the Babadook itself to life. The attention to atmosphere pays off with an eerie feel that adds to the story as well as the dread.
The movie’s monster could have walked straight out of the background of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The surreal sight of this nightmare creature is made even more menacing by the fact that the audience might never get a clear look at it. Less is definitely more and I promise you’ll wonder whether the Babadook even exists, while simultaneously being terrified of it.
The titular ‘Babadook’ follows the mother son duo everywhere. Nowhere is safe – from the car, to the neighbor’s house to under the covers. Creeping into their lives and slowly gaining a hold of their sanity.
The Babadook also explores some of the dark depths of psychology, using the monster as a manifestation of grief, frustration and depression. Combined with a severe lack of sleep, the world of the characters becomes even more terrifying. As the mother’s desperation and frustration grow, so does the strength of the monster. With such a basis in the psychology of these characters, the audience is left to wonder, is this real or only a waking nightmare?
Whether searching for proof of horror’s artistic merit or looking to be genuinely creeped out, this is one to add to the Netflix queue.