What makes The Babadook unique as a film is that, in a sense, you are the monster. Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut puts you in the shoes of its titular monster and proves that she is an imaginative director. The film tells the story of a single mother having to confront her child’s fear of a monster, but also the story of the monster itself.

The plot is simplistic, containing two principal characters in one location. Amelia is mother to six-year-old son Samuel. Samuel enjoys pretending to kill monsters — only Samuel isn’t playing, but rather preparing. Amelia is at first upset with Samuel, who grows obsessed with the monster he calls “Babadook”, and quickly becomes disruptive in school, and towards his friends and neighbours.

The film features editing that shocks and a bass-rich score will literally make you shake. It also has the craftiest silver-tongued six year old I’ve ever seen ­— to the point where I feel the dialogue may have been going over my head.

The Babadook‘s monster is very much like a shadow, and appropriately takes aesthetic cues from German Expressionist films. The shadow’s hands are like Nosferatu’s, he wears a top hat like Dr. Caligari, and he develops the ability to grow like Mephisto from Faust. What is so clever is that a shadow is really nothing but the extension of one’s self. If one were to subtract all the scenes from the movie that feature the monster it could easily be a drama on mental illness or the fear of failure that inhibits all of us. Having just lost her husband, Amelia has a lot to fear, namely being alone, finding herself an outcast from the suburban middle class and its petty problems, and being a bad parent. Kent emphasizes these lingering fears with harsh high contrast lighting that creates large shadows in almost every shot ­— the Babadook is always around us.