"If it's in a word, or it's in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook." A seemingly innocuous children's rhyme turns into an utterly chilling threat by the end of Jennifer Kent's impeccable 2014 horror gem, The Babadook. A sort of continuation from her equally impressive short film Monster, released almost 10 years ago, The Babadook is a breath of fresh air in what's become a pretty dire Halloween release window. Nevertheless, this lack of competition does nothing but help The Babadook look even better. Smart, refreshing, and evocatively nightmarish, the film perfectly digs up all the fears of your youth, and Kent's means of bringing these youthful anxieties to life makes for the scariest, and saddest, horror film you'll see this year.

At first glance it could be easy to assume The Babadook is just your regular, run-of-the-mill Hollywood cash-in. A moody, blue-tinged horror story about a children's boogyman is, rather unfortunately, the reductive synopsis that people have attached to The Babadook. It's why, somewhat ignorantly, the movie keeps being compared to 2012's (admittedly pretty good) Sinister. It's absolutely imperative that these misconceptions are cleared up and the spotlight is handed to what's truly one of the most original films of this year. For starters it's not even a Hollywood film, which in itself is sigh of relief. I don't know what's caused the dramatic decline in the American horror landscape recently, but the best modern horror films are certainly no longer coming from the old US of A.

One of The Babadook's greatest strengths is how it manipulates and crafts sinister imagery out of familiar environments. Film's have evoked childlike fears of the dark, the closet, and under the bed for decades now, but The Babadook is one of the only movies that taps into what made those places truly scary as a child. Lurking pans of a dimly lit bedroom or the way too quiet silence of a vacant lounge injects a disabling sense of dread into items and places that should seem familiar. Kent commands the aesthetics of the film so well that something as mundane as a lingering shot of a cluttered room becomes unbearably menacing. The dream-like flow of editing in The Babdook captures a disturbingly twisted nightmare version of real life that seems utterly inescapable. Through its use of lighting, sound and frankly unrivalled editing, The Babadook captures the very same essence of what it's like to be scared of the dark as a kid.

The film nails this constant sense of fear perfectly by barely showing the titular Mister Babadook. When the creature starts appearing more frequently as the movie goes on it's completely unpredictable; there's no obvious music cue signalling a jump-scare around the corner. Kent manipulates light and dark so well that every scene becomes irrationally scary and hauntingly foreboding whether there's anything happening or not. Even when Mister Babadook isn't the centre of the scene, the dreaded atmosphere created by Kent ensures a sense of fear and anxiety at all times. A sequence involving a mother investigating a noise around the house could lead to nothing but a regular old hung up coat in an empty room - or it could lead to a glimpse of Mister Babadook himself. It's a testament to the film's strength that either outcome is equally as terrifying.

What becomes more apparent as the film progresses is that The Babadook lovingly takes inspiration from proto-horror films from the classic silent age of cinema. A pinch of German expressionist stylings here or a sprinkle of Gothic character designs there makes for a movie that feels imaginative and uncorrupted by the mass of samey horror flicks from the past decade or so. While it owes a debt to these silent classics, The Babadook isn't just ripping them off. More so it's the sensibilities and the atmosphere that it has in common with these earlier pictures; an emphasis on imagery and tone rather than dialogue and jump-scare jingles. Ironically enough, taking inspiration from these films makes The Babadook come across as incredibly original and daring. An ode to defining films in the genre, the appreciation and recontextualization of iconic imagery is just one indication of the passion and thought that fuels the dark heart of The Babadook.

With its refreshingly moody sensibilities and willingness to tackle big, difficult topics head-on, The Babadook is one of the most energising and sophisticated horror films in ages. A fantastic command over cinematography and aesthetics enables Kent to create a nightmarish perversion of innocent childlike imagination. The film glides from scene to scene perfectly with absolutely spot-on pacing that develops an unpredictably tense rhythm of rising terror. All together this allows the horror to dig a little deeper than what you're used to, attacking and probing all of the irrational fears you had when you were 6 years old. Whether it's an uneasy glimpse out the corner of your eye or the creaking noise in your house at night, The Babadook will make you scared of the dark - again.