You can’t get rid of the Babadook.
Occasionally I like to watch scary movies late at night which is a highly intelligent thing to do (that’s sarcasm, friends). After hearing several online friends rave about this film, I decided to face potential night terrors head on and check out Jennifer Kent’s first full-length directed film.
The movie begins with a flashback of Amelia, played by Essie Davis (of Girl with a Pearl Earring and Matrix films), and her husband on their way to the hospital to give birth to their son. After an accident that kills her husband, we are brought forward years later where Amelia is still quietly dealing with the depression from the loss of her husband and the pressures of raising a rambunctious son.
Samuel is a spirited and active child with a highly developed imagination, clever in building homemade contraptions to fight off imaginary monsters as well as a talent for magic tricks. While putting Samuel to bed one night, Amelia discovers a book in her sons room titled “Mr. Babadook” and starts to read what appears to begin as a simple children’s pop-up book. As she turns the pages, the story of a night shadow that terrorizes a young boy, it becomes more sinister and disturbing, as do the illustrations of The Babadook until the final page threatens “you’ll wish you were dead.”
Amelia’s son, fantastically characterized by Noah Wiseman, begins to exhibit increasingly violent behavior, towards others and herself. In the beginning his behavior forces Amelia to take him out of school where she relies on a kind and emotionally supportive neighbor to watch her son. When teased by a girl for his lack of a father, he pushes her out of a tree house. When Amelia tries to take his back pack catapult away, he lashes out at her.
Amelia is losing sleep. Sounds start occurring throughout the house that Samuel blames on the Babadook. Knock knock knock. She sees hints of the Babadook in the shadows. At one point Amelia tears up the book, and it reappears on her doorstep reassembled. As she incredulously flips through the pages of the book it has changed to show the night shadow terrorizing a cartoon effigy of the mother instead and shows the mother committing horrifying acts. She then burns the book. I don’t blame her.
But you can’t get rid of the Babadook. Its presence becomes increasingly menacing until it seems to corporeally manifest into an actual monster. Amelia’s sleeplessness lends itself to hallucinations, impatience with Samuel culminates in abusive behavior. Amelia loses it in an almost Jack Torrance-like episode as she chases Samuel around the house.
The movie was filmed on a modest budget but what they did with it was superbly crafted to create an environment of suspense and terror. The cinematography was beautiful in its way, using Amelia and Samuel’s home as a representation of her depression over her husband’s death with its varying shades of grey and beige.
The Babadook itself is a metaphor for problems that we try to ignore in our lives. Amelia tells a friend that she’s over her husband’s death, that she doesn’t even mention him, but its a lie that she tells herself. When you try to suppress your feelings instead of dealing with them directly, they will sometimes continue to haunt you until they become our own real-life monsters. It’s only until Amelia confronts the monster directly that she’s able to get a handle on it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. If you’re looking for a good thriller to give you a jump start, I highly recommend this one.