The Babadook (2014) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

The Babadook (2014) Directed by Jennifer Kent. With Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall and Hayley McElhinney. 


Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is a drama-horror-thriller (I think that’s the right order) about a bereaved single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), living together in their rustic, suburban home. Struggling to return to the run of everyday life after the tragic death of her husband, Amelia’s relationship with Samuel is a strained one, as he is manically convinced of a monstrous presence lurking in their home.

There’s nothing straight-up-horror about the film, although it manages to be consistently horrifying, showing the struggle of a woman under attack in almost every aspect of her life. If The Babadook were to fall into a, let’s say, an ‘Academy friendly’ category, then Essie Davis’ central performance would have ‘Oscar nomination’ written all over it. The physical and emotional stress is played to such a convincing extent, that we find ourselves drained on her behalf – aching for some relief from the torment. Underneath a birds-nest hairdo, her face is the very picture of ‘had enough’.

As her son Samuel, Noah Wiseman is a remarkable presence, fully contributing to the heightened, unbalanced sense of the film. Refreshingly, this isn’t one of those jump-scare horror films, eager to dish out a few funfair thrills. Instead, Jennifer Kent’s aim is to slip under your skin to wreak a little internal chaos. There’s a washed-out, colourless aesthetic that reinforces the sense of not only life lost, but life ebbing away.

Ultimately, The Babadook doesn’t feel like entertainment, in the strictest sense of the word. The film explores dark corners of the human psyche, and is a consistently uncomfortable watch, as Essie Davis’ character find herself caught between the muddy lines of sanity and insanity, amid circumstances that feed the latter.



About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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6 Responses to The Babadook (2014) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. This was one of my favourite surprises of past recent years! Absolutely love the performances.

  2. I love the film and agree with most of your review, but I would disagree with the statement that it’s not straight up horror. I think the horror timing is excellent. The film builds suspense and discomfort in a fantastic way and does so much with virtually no special effects. The Babdook is genuinely creepy, although the end is disappointing. This is one of my favorites in the horror genre.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much for such a thoughtful response. I wouldn’t argue that the timing isn’t perfect, and I did go on to say in the same sentence that it’s ‘consistently horrifying’. When I say it’s not straight-up horror, I mean that’s it’s unconventional at heart, seeming to hit us with an uppercut, yet delivering a breathtaking gut-punch. Great to hear from you.

  3. James says:

    It’s so interesting to read reviews like this because I hated this movie. I shouldn’t have, it had everything in it that I like, but for me it just landed up being an overwrought and melodramatic film. My honest impression watching it was that it was intended to be a rather moving film about a mother’s struggles that had a horror element tacked on at the end. I guess it’s one of those ‘love it or hate it’ movies.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Films. They hit us all differently. I can see why this one might leave the viewer numb, as it falls into a category of film that’s hard to label as ‘entertainment’. It’s a draining experience, and leaves us a little empty. Thank you for reading, though, it’s good to have your opinion.

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