Another type of boogeyman can be found in Jennifer Kent’s psychological horror movie The Babadook, but is it really that scary as William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, wants to make you believe?
(Australia 2014, director: Jennifer Kent)
A single mother tries to cope with her son’s abnormal behavior, and after reading a children’s book about a boogeyman, she soon has to battle with fears of the monster coming alive.
There has been a lot of hype going on about this movie, both offline and online. And as it’s usually the case with superlatives like “scariest” or “best”, it’s difficult for the real thing to live up to these expectations. I usually try to keep them as low as possible so that disappointment isn’t so big in the end. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases when even this as well as giving it another chance with a second viewing doesn’t help.
Now, The Babadook has two major problems. First, it was marketed as a rather thrilling creature feature and haunted mansion flick. It’s none of these. While the Babadook has a few appearances which are to a certain degree unsettling and creepy, they’re not enough to make the creature frightful. Secondly, if one accepts that this isn’t a standard horror movie with typical jumpscares and some gore and blood, but a slow-paced drama, one has to feel sympathy for the main characters. This is difficult, as the child is annoying and the mother too whiny. Sure, the main topic is isolation and depression, but if one can’t connect with the characters, one stops caring for them.
The movie is based on a short film of the same director, and it shows, as the running time of around 100 minutes feels too long. While it’s more like an intimate play between the boy and his mother, it would have been nice to have some more interesting supporting characters. As these are instantly forgettable, what about the titular monster? Granted, there’s some great artwork in the children’s book and when the creature appears, the sound effects and disturbing voice are excellent. But one has to wait a rather long time until it gets really scary, and with the final part of the movie ripping off The Shining and at some points becoming unintentionally funny and ridiculously sentimental, its goal to frighten and move at the same time fails. It might be psychological horror and one can argue that the monster is a figment of the boy’s and mother’s imagination, but this doesn’t mean that the movie should be devoid of more original ideas, likeable characters, and suspense, as the great sound design and interesting music doesn’t save it from mediocrity.
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