‘Babadook’ uses vintage effects to impress

Mace Mackiewicz, Verge Reporter

“The Babadook” is an Australian horror film. The film follows Amelia, a widowed mother, and her troubled son, Samuel, as they go through a rough patch. Their situation goes from trouble to absolute horror when Samuel makes his mom read a book called “The Babadook” which starts to haunt them both.

The movie does a good job of building tension throughout. At the beginning of the film the relationship between mother and son is shown. Samuel is a troubled kid who has a problem with causing violence and breaks down into fits. He gets in trouble towards the beginning of the film for bringing a dart gun to school and his mother pulls him out of public school rather than have him be monitored while he’s there.

The first third of the film is pretty much character building. We learn Amelia works at a nursing home and has a flirtatious relationship with one of her co-workers. She’s bogged down with stress from having to juggle work life and taking care of her son. She is also shown to be jealous of people who are in love as she admires relationships from afar.

Samuel is a disturbed kid who has no filter. He has a fascination with magic and is borderline obsessed with it. He also knows that his dad died the night he was born and he has problems with his mother hiding any semblance of his father from him in their basement.

Samuel repeatedly wakes his mother up at night from nightmares. This starts to become grating to her as she lacks sleep, but she tries to be as compassionate as possible towards her son. The insomnia, however, starts getting in the way of her being able to work.

The tension starts to build more in the second third of the movie when the Babadook is introduced. The monster knocks on doors at night, and at first that’s all that it does. So in the beginning it comes off as maybe a prank or someone is messing with the family, but without spoiling too much the film ramps up the horror from there.

When the horror gets rolling in the film though it works very well. As someone who is normally unfazed by horror films this movie made me look away at some parts and even feel a sense of dread. This is good because normally horror movies have stereotypes I can’t latch onto, but this film actually has characters that the audience can actually care about.

The film avoids a lot of modern day horror clichés. There are minimal, if any, jump scares in the film. The film isn’t a gross gore fest like a lot of newer horror films are. It builds on atmosphere and ramps up throughout the film so you aren’t overwhelmed at the beginning so that the whole second half makes you terrified.

The film also uses a lot of practical effects and stop motion which makes everything look real and touchable on screen. There are minimal computer graphics and the CG that is there is used to augment the practical effects. There’s a moment towards the end that is done so well and filmed with just the right lighting that it reminds me a lot of films from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The film feels, in some ways, like an homage to older horror films. The soundtrack sounds like something that would have been recorded in the ‘70s, some of the visual effects that are used later in the film give the movie a dream-like quality, similar to “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

There are two standout moments of the film that make it stand on its own amongst classic horror films. One involves altered footage of really old movies and the effect makes the film feel like a fever dream. A second moment happens right before the end of the movie and, without spoiling anything, is extremely terrifying.

The acting in the movie is really good and even the child actor isn’t bad. There are multiple characters, but the majority of the film takes place in one house and relies on the acting of the mother and son. The two are excellent and carry the movie well. The conveyance of horror and hopelessness is perfect for this film.

There were only a couple of problems that I had with the film. One is that at one point in the film they use a sound effect that is pretty much a T-rex sound, which felt a little cheap, and it would have been cooler if they made an original sound. The other involves the plot with the son. At least part of the film could have been resolved if he got proper help from professionals. But other than these two concerns, this is probably one of the best horror films of the past decade.

I would personally give the movie a 9 out of 10 as it is a really well made horror film that strays away from cheap scares and actually uses real effects. If you can see it in an art theater or can rent it digitally, I recommend supporting the film.

Mace Mackiewicz is a junior journalism major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].