Sam is six years old. When his mother was pregnant with him, his father was killed in a car accident on the way to the hospital. Sam has serious behavioral problems which his single mother can't handle, serous enough that she removes him from the school he attends.


During playtime with a female cousin, Sam pushes the little girl to the ground so severely she breaks her nose in two places. That she deserved what she got for taunting Sam about not having a father is beside the point.


Sam is so annoying that his aunt wants nothing to do with him, and his aberrant behavior contributes mightily to his mother's extreme personality changes. Hordes of cockroaches flowing out of a hole in the wall don't help matters. Sam is also fiercely protective of his mother, vowing to slay any monsters that come near her. His mother, meanwhile, is maddeningly weak at disciplining Sam, and at parenting in general, until strange things begin happening, culminating in the appearance of an evil presence.


Sam loves to be read stories by his mother, and on one occasion hands her a pop-up book called "Mister Babadook". But it is hardly a children's book. It contains a handful of menacing phrases that accompany the scary illustrations, warning the reader that if the babadook gets inside your house, you can't get rid of him, and you'll wish you were DEAD! The babadook, as the story goes, announces his presence with three loud noises followed by a voice: "dook - dook -dook!"


This Australian film is commendable for the strong performances of Essie Davis as the mother and Noah Wiseman as Sam. The young boy is remarkable in the role, and Davis is exceptional as a woman on the brink of insanity.


Suggestions of demonic possession and black magic are present, but the movie lacks any real jolts, compared to superior horror movies like "The Ring" and "Paranormal Activity 1" and "3". A strange ending involving a magic trick performed by Sam may raise more questions than it answers.


For all of its unsettling atmosphere, I wasn't that jarred by the happenings in this film. It borrows heavily from "The Exorcist", with objects in the room shaking violently, projectile vomiting and the levitation of humans.


Cinematographer Radek Ladczuk, an award winner in his native Poland, deftly provides a variety of disparate angles with his camera which help to maintain the overall sense of dread we share with the characters. Directed and written by Jennifer Kent ("Babe: Pig in the City", 1998), "The Babadook" is a well constructed character study, but may fail to creep out some jaded horror lovers.


Opinion: Wait for DVD