… you can’t get rid of The Babadook.
Well, at the very least you can’t get rid of the terribly catchy little rhyme.
This little independent flick kept popping up on various ‘best of‘ lists of scary movies I was checking out; some reviewers even went so far as to declare it one of the scariest movies of the decade, so I figured it’s worth a shot.
Turns out, it’s really not. I don’t know what everyone else found so scary about this movie, but for me the scariest part was the actual book about the Babadook.
I mean, just look at this thing:
Whoever designed this (hopefully original and completely fictional) children’s book is a genius. I’m a full grown adult and the idea of being tucked in and having this story read to me pretty much guarantees a sleepless night.
Seriously, look at Mr. Babadook and tell me you wouldn’t have nightmares:
Pure horror genius. Not since the human-skin bound ‘Necronomicon‘ has a book been so effectively horrifying (then again, the entire Evil Dead franchise was also hilarious). It’s the illustrations and the simple little verses that give me the creeps, because, taken out of context, Babadook is just a very ridiculously funny word (and is it just me, or is it even funnier in an Aussie accent?).
And that’s about the extent of the horror element for me.
As much as I wanted to get into it and actually put myself in Amelia and Samuel’s shoes, I just found the kid incredibly annoying, and the mom’s performance absolutely exaggerated, to the point that instead of horror, it just evoked laughter. Also, if I were a single mom and had to look into every closet and under every bed to appease my stupid son with this nightly ritual so he won’t scream-cry again, I don’t think I would even need a demonic entity to possess me; I’d probably want to wring his whiny neck all on my own.
I guess I just don’t generally enjoy movies where the evil element / source of horror is some shapeless, undefined entity, whether it’s a ghost, an evil spirit or some faceless demon (well, The Exorcist is a notable exception, but how many movies can you name that managed to rise to that level of greatness?). Maybe it’s just my rational mind readily explaining away mysterious sounds or passing shadows that removes the fear factor from invisible forces. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to accept a terrifying creature, or just a very bad, bad human being, wreaking havoc on innocent victims’ lives, but for some reason that only extends to flesh-and-bone villains, or at least entities possessing some shape or form. I need the scary guy whose effect I can’t dismiss as a figment of my – or the characters’ – imagination.
At the end of the day, The Babadook is no different than any number of movies that fall under the Shining-copycat genre, switching the demonic presence of the house for some other mysterious force – in this case, a sinister children’s book. Except without the genius of Stanley Kubrick, the amazing story by Stephen King, and the pure brilliance of Jack Nicholson, it just falls flat. Whatever evil being is behind the mother’s increasingly strange behavior, it doesn’t hold a candle to the classic masterpiece, or other superior films that employ a similar trope.
So yeah, I didn’t exactly enjoy this one, nor would I even dream if placing it on any top ten list, but hey, if that’s your thing, who am I to talk?