A technical detail as unnoticeable as a seemingly-peripheral sound effect can change how a movie plays.
This basic bitchery comes to you courtesy of one such effect in 2014’s The Babadook, and courtesy of Write All Nite’s commitment to assessing the minutest of artistic parts and how they contribute to the whole.
Midway through the flick, immediately after our main character has her first nightmare starring the eponymous ghouly, she (understandably) shoots out of bed, scoops up her son, and flies down the stairs. As they flee, we hear a sound without an onscreen source:
It’s either the sound of their dog’s paws accompanying their flight, or it’s the Babadook haunting their every move; the pitter-patter of paws and Baba’s established claws sound similar enough when scraping along a hardwood floor.
Conventional wisdom would choose the canine as the aural culprit here. But the fact that the question can even be asked heightens the moment-to-moment suspense, reinforcing the idea that the Dook’s always lingering, liable to pounce from the shadows at any and all times. As the corporeally-detached sound effect conveys, we don’t need to see the pup — nor the Dook — on screen to suspect they’re around.
The next scene further intertwines the dog and the Dook; after settling downstairs with her kid, our heroine descends into a Babadook-infected trance, a spell that’s only broken by…the dog barking atop her sleeping(?) son.
And then, the doggo all but disappears from the movie! We don’t catch another glimpse for a while, widening the mystery of what the fuck might be going on here; did the Dook down the Dog?? Did she???
Not yet (nothing’s more destined to die than a cute dog in a horror movie), but the sound effect signaling the dog’s unseen presence, and then that being interwoven with the Dook’s presence, can serve to remind us of the dog’s place in the main character’s prophesied — according to the cursed children’s book — spiral: first she offs the dog, then her own son, then herself.
The sound effect now represents both the fear of the Babadook’s incorporeally-constant presence, AND the doom that the dog’s continued presence might spell for the family before we’ve heard the last of the Babadook.