(The Babadook, 2014 – Causeway Films)
The Babadook does a lot with a little. The majority of the film is spent within the same house and the cast is small, and yet the film builds tension with ease. One thing that I immediately noticed is the lack of musical score (it’s there but it’s very minimal). Where I’m usually one to latch on to scores and their ability to lead emotion and enunciate plot, I was surprised to see how well the emptiness in the audio helped drive the narrative, it reinforces the emptiness of the house (the rooms are huge and the furniture minimal) and the emptiness felt by the mother due to the loss of her husband.
Like any great horror, The Babadook‘s most thrilling moments are when the self titled monster remains in the shadows. I was disappointed how early on the monster is revealed as it lowered the tension complete, but by doing so it allowed the focus to be shifted onto the mother and her rampage. The revelation of what the monster represents is great and unusual, grounding the film in the common human emotion of grief. Future horror would do well to follow this film by reducing the gore, stopping the found footage formula and focusing on humanity and our emotions. The most frightening monster are more often than not within us.
I love how the monster isn’t defeated nor does it disappear, it is dealt with – just like grief.