Decade of death: 10 greatest horror performances of the 2010s

9 of 11

Essie Davis in The Babadook–Courtesy of Screen Australia and Entertainment One

Essie Davis (The Babadook)

More from Lists

If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of Essie Davis’ performance in The Babadook. The film follows a widowed mother who is struggling to raise her troubled child, who she blames for the death of her lover. We named The Babadook one of the ten best horror movies of the decade, in large part because of Davis’ harrowing portrayal of depression and grief.

The film is frightening and metaphorical, but its weight is carried in full by Essie Davis. The actress wears a glazed-over look in her eyes that allows the character to appear as though she’s sleepwalking through each mundane day of her life. The character is trapped in an endless circle of sleepless nights and nerve-grating days with her son, and though it’s been several years since her lover’s death, she’s yet to allow herself to face her pain and grief head on. That pain has been building inside of her, and The Babadook is a metaphor for what we become when we don’t allow ourselves to deal with our mental illnesses or grief.

Davis is a revelation and she owns every scene she’s in, demanding our sympathy before stealing our screams in the final act. It’s truly one of the greatest horror performances of all time.