Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is an interesting take on the “haunting” sub-genre of horror. It tells the story of Amelia, who was widowed by a horrible car crash on their way to the hospital to have their son. Seven years later, her son Samuel is a social outcast who suffers from night terrors, and she is haunted by images of her dead husband and her desire for companionship. After finding a disturbing book in their house, a presence begins to haunt their every waking moment.
Like the best horror, this film is deliberate and slow. The disturbing tone is established early on, but not overtly so. In the beginning, their house has the creepy feel that many old homes share, with it’s creaking doors and a sinister basement. It is made clear that Amelia ignores Samuels many developmental issues, choosing to take him out of school when the headmaster suggests he be given a personal aid after bringing a homemade crossbow to campus. We also find that she chooses to have his birthday two weeks early with his cousin because she doesn’t want to celebrate anything on the day her husband died. In fact, Amelia’s obvious failings as a parent before the haunting are the part that personally unsettled me the most, and work well within the overarching narrative.