The Babadook is the best horror of the decade and I won’t hear a word against it

Babadook is the best horror of the decade, I tell you (Picture: Rex)

It’s a simply theory I’d like to run by you as we close out the decade, if you’d be so kind – The Babadook is the best horror film of the past 10 years.

Fight me.

The last few years has seen a real resurgence of the kind of horror/thriller films that make the hairs stick up on the back of your neck and the suspenseful pauses almost impossible to withstand. Get Out, if you will (the film, not the order).

Back in 2014, The Babadook came at a time when ‘horror’ films were languishing with the umpteen-part Saw franchise that made gore the du jour of terror. We didn’t know what a good scare was. We just thought it was being kidnapped by some tricycle-wielding clown and being made to chop our own legs off. Still terrifying, but you get my point.

Then Jennifer Kent threw her top-hatted, knife-fingered titular character at us with the gravelly growl of ‘Babadook-dook-doooook’ which continues to get my girdles in a bunch all these years later.

The Babadook is no simple horror – it’s the best goddamn thriller I’ve ever seen *wheezes*. It’s controversial, I know, but stick with me here.

The Aussie film focuses on Amelia (Essie Davis), a nurse from an aged care dementia home, who is haunted by the death of her husband, Oskar (Benjamin Winspear) who perished quite horrendously in a car crash seven years earlier, as he drove Amelia to the hospital for her to deliver their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman).

Sucky way to lose a partner.

Anyway, Amelia has been utter rubbish at the grieving process and a dark cloud is gathering ominously in the house – the woman can’t sleep and her kid is a bit of an erratic terror who has a proclivity for DIY crossbows.

Around this time, lo and behold, a freak book, Mister Babadook, mysteriously turns up in the house promising their murder. Cute, right? Even though Amelia tries to hide it, the tome returns with more pages filled out. She even burns the thing, ripping it to shreds, only for it to appear back in the house with the pages taped back together.

Then, old mate Babadook appears, with the terrifying ‘Babadook-dook-doooook’ call. In the wise words of Antoine Dodson, ‘He’s climbin’ in your windows. He’s snatchin’ your people up – hide your kids, hide your wife’.

Yes, I can hear you say – oh but it’s not actually a horror Mel, is it? Is it even that scary? What about The Conjuring? Now THAT’S a horror.

It’s what we don’t see in The Babadook that makes it the scariest – what is in the mind of the characters and what is read between the lines.

It’s all well and good to throw a bunch of demented ghosts at us in high-definition, but challenge the psyche of a crumbling single mother dealing with the death of her soulmate and her hyperactive kid who may-or-may-not have pushed his cousin out of a treehouse? That’s what keeps you guessing.

But what makes this movie so great is not the Babadook itself at all.

While so many horror/thrillers focus on some sensationalist monster and bring in the most warped of protagonists to justify said monster’s existence, The Babadook dives into mental health, being a single parent, the idea that a parent can hate their child, and the terrifying reality of our own faltering minds.

You’d think a kid with a crossbow was the scariest thing (Picture: Rex Features)

The Babadook need not even appear in his croaky glory and I’d still be bricking it.

The film doesn’t pretend its audience is stupid – as so many slasher gore horrors often do – and lets us slowly dissect the idea this Babadook mate isn’t even real.

We spend two-thirds of the film agonising over whether it’s just a figment of Amelia or Samuel’s imagination. The dread is real.

More so, as the film unravels you begin to wonder whether Amelia has lost her marbles? Or, gasp, is she The Babadook?

Is Samuel actually driving her crazy, or is he just reacting to an increasingly frantic mother who really needs to deal with the death of her husband in a more constructive way? Or, just, a way.

Mate, hand me the popcorn because this s**t is real.

Essie Davis needed all the Oscars (Picture: Rex Features)

What I love most about this film is that you start off in the corner of one character – mainly sympathising with a resentful but patient Amelia – before slowly walking across the room to chant for another (you really do get behind Samuel as Amelia starts ripping her teeth out in the kitchen and strangles the family Maltese).

What’s oh-so glorious about this is the ever-present threat, but the minimal sightings of the terrorising Babadook.

In only a handful of moments do you see the creature in his spindly glory. Sometimes it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment as it stands behind elderly neighbour Mrs Roach. Other times it flies above the car as Amelia is driving and lands with a thud, with your imagination left to fill the gaps of what the black-coated villain is up to.

When we do see the creature, the scenes are almost shot in a stop-motion way that shouldn’t be scary at all – we should be laughing at this hilarious attempt to frighten, but it’s actually really bloody spine-tingly.

Five years after its release The Babadook is getting the recognition it deserved back in 2014. There’s a reason that while I write this, I can hear smatterings of chatter in the about this film, and in one corner the ‘Baaaaabadooook’ growl coming from one writer.

It’s relatable on so many levels while also challenging the horror genre. Director Jennifer Kent has dismissed the film being a horror (‘or if it is, it’s a good one’) but it sure freaks me out more than any Lorraine and Ed Warren-focused trope ever will.

Because, on the face of it, what’s more terrifying than our own crippling and faltering minds, eh?

Well, that and If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.

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