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Sundance 2014: The Babadook reaction

 
There’s a new name in terror and it’s quite difficult to pronounce…
 
Aussie chiller The Babadook sees single mother Amelia (Essie Davis - impressive) struggling to cope with her wayward son who’s convinced there’s a monster lurking in the house. Which unfortunately, there is. Sort of.
 
Beginning as an excruciating We Need To Talk About Kevin -style study of the stress and guilt of parenthood (the ghost of Amelia’s dead husband haunts both mother and child), The Babadook takes a turn for the terrifying when six-year-old Samuel (Noah Wiseman – excellent) finds a new children’s book in the house called Mister Babadook. Illustrated by frankly wee-inducing pictures of a razor-toothed top-hatted ghoul, the mysterious book talks of a demon who knocks at the door three times (“Ba-ba Dook, Dook Dook!”) and once you let him in will never leave.
 
Keeping the monster in the shadows until the end while focusing on the pictures in the book keeps the audience effectively unnerved – we can only imagine what the actual Babadook looks like with pictures that disturbing.
 
The feature debut of Jennifer Kent, The Babadook plays with the standard ‘is she mad or is there a monster?’ trope but manages to stay psychologically and emotionally satisfying with an ending that doesn’t go where you'd expect. More importantly, The Babadook is a horror movie that actually manages to be truly frightening, tapping into childhood fears and grown-up anxieties with skill.
 
Creepy as hell, his name might be hard to remember but once you’ve seen The Babadook , you won’t forget his face. 
 

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