The Babbdook tells the story of a single mother, Amelia, who is struggling to raise her son as she copes with the death of her husband. Upon reading a horrifying children’s book, her son begins to believe that the monster is real, and Amelia has to figure out if the he’s right or if the monster could even be her son.
The Babbadook is an incredibly well paced psychological horror/thriller that plays with both terrifying onscreen scares and the sense of the unknown. The Babbadook itself is terrifying visually, as he isn’t too over-the-top or cheesy like a lot of monster-movie-esque villains tend to be. He is dark and foreboding and just a lurking presence that takes its time to be fully realized, but when it does, the climax is palpably horrific.
The film does something very similar with its premise that The Monster also did, in which it’s titular beast represents very human issues and relationships. This film deals with the relationship between a mother and her son and the ways that they deal with the death of Oskar, Sam’s father, who died while driving Amelia to the hospital to deliver Samuel. As Amelia struggles to come to terms with having to raise Samuel on her own, their relationship grows more and more strained until it finally snaps. Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman, has such an Omen-like quality that makes every line he delivers incredibly eerie and for such a young actor he played a great part. Sometimes he can be a little much, but I mean he’s six so I’ll let it slide.
I always saw this movie, and more specifically the Babadook itself, as the embodiment of grief. “You can’t get rid of the Babadook” and the fact that the more you try to ignore it the stronger it gets, seems like a pretty accurate description for grief itself. Without coming to terms with the death of her husband, she will always be haunted by his memory, and subconsciously blames Samuel for his death. This explains her mounting aggression towards her son after being “possessed by the Babadook”. It’s really the physical manifestation of grief that had never been truly resolved. It also explains why the Babadook makes her confront her husbands death head on during the climax, to force her to deal with it, resulting in her choosing her son and cleansing herself of the creature.
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Anyways, The Babadook is a solid horror film. It can be slow at times, and the climax I thought was interesting, but can come across as a little much. There is some pretty gross imagery, but for the most part it wasn’t too bad. The first time I watched it, it had me watching through my fingers at parts so I can guarantee a good scare factor. It plays with the unreliability of the narrator, which I love. I am always a sucker for a good unreliable narrator, but it still provides a straightforward and intense view of familial relationships and the impact that grief and death can have on a family.
Amy’s Recommendation: 8/10