Seven years after the death of her husband (Benjamin Winspear), care home worker Amelia (Essie Davis) is still haunted by memories of her beloved.
She politely rebuffs advances from work colleague Robbie (Daniel Henshall) and weathers pity and sarcasm from her unsympathetic sister, Claire (Hayley McElhinney). The only person who shares Amelia’s sense of loss is her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who is exhibiting the signs of ADHD. The energetic tyke interrupts his mother’s sleep patterns with claims of monsters in his room. “Do you want to die?!” the boy asks his mother, warning her to beware a hideously gnarled spectre called The Babadook, which is a character from his pop-up book. She ignores his pleas and slowly, Amelia’s mental state unravels, causing deep concern for elderly next-door neighbour Mrs Roach (Barbara West) and social services. The Babadook is a deeply unsettling and impressive debut from writer-director Jennifer Kent, drawing emotional power from the strong performances of Davis and Wiseman. Kent conjures some genuinely unsettling scenes of domestic disturbance and sensibly keeps the clawed antagonist off screen for the best part of an hour, hinting at unspeakable horrors that lurk in shadowy corners and beneath beds. Once The Babadook slinks into the light and announces its presence with a death rattle growl, the film loses some of its power to shock and feelings of skin-crawling dread are reduced to an itch. Hardcore horror fans will find it a tad lightweight but for scaredy cats, Kent’s descent into the darkness is definitely worth a scratch.