Review (film): The Babadook (2014)


Sunday 3/23/2014 – New Directors/New Films series – MoMA

The film begins with a black screen and a low and loud, almost mechanical, rumbling hum. The first thing the viewer see is woman’s face, large and centered on the screen. Her eyes are fixed ahead toward the audience, and her face remains alone in the center of the image, but she is tumbling. Then broken glass, a flash of a man in the driver’s seat, and then steadily louder voice of a child yelling for his mother.

And our woman, Amelia, wakes up, to the real nightmare it seems: her son, Samuel.

The Babadook reminds us of The Shining and The Exorcist, and even a bit of The Innocents, without feeling referential or canny. Amelia’s house is itself a character in the film, with agency and the ability to hide and release secrets. A young boy knows more about the darkness and evil than his mother. And we begin to wonder: has someone been taken by the Babadook? And if so, who? Or is this all the nightmare-like creation of a woman unraveling?

I have a read on the film, but since it’s not out in theatres yet, I’m going to hold off for a while.