Amelia (Essie Davis) has never had the chance to grieve the death of her husband 7 years ago. Because her beloved Oscar died in a car carsh while Amelia was in labor, processing her trauma had to take a back seat to raising a newborn all by herself. Now about to turn 7, Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is having some trouble fitting in, unable to shake the feeling that his mom will one day leave him and develops an obsession with protecting him and his mother from monsters.
Oh, and there’s a monster in his closet.
What starts with a creepy children’s book that mysteriously appears on his shelf, (“If it’s in a word. Or if it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of… The Babadook”), escalates into a full-blown assault on Amelia’s psyche. The more The Babadook gets under her skin, the more dangerous Amelia becomes to her terrified son.
The Babadook, the feature debut from director Jennifer Kent, is a supernatural thriller in the tradition of The Shining. Kent’s film, however, separates itself from Kubrick’s classic in two important ways. First, the dynamic between mother and son and the themes of trauma and loss are more psychologically astute here, with character arcs that would still be satisfying even without the horror element. Second, with Amelia, Davis- as she herself has pointed out- has to play both Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson to Samuel and she plays them both perfectly. Her descent into madness is is captivating and played with a restraint that- as much as we all love Jack- has never been his strong suit.
The Babadook will get under your skin. Filmmaker William Friedkinhas apparently stated that he has never seen a movie more terrifying. And he directed the Exorcist, so…