Hello, dear readers, this week I’m bringing you something that’s a bit different than the usual fare. The Babadook, has a reputation for being a scary movie about a single mother and her child being assaulted by a horrible creature that originated from a children’s book, but it so much more than that. With intensely powerful themes, beautiful and clever cinematography, a stellar soundtrack, and impeccable actors, The Babadook is a suspenseful horror that will grip you from the very beginning and never let you go.

The Breakdown

Plot:

We enter in to the movie with Amelia (Essie Davis) having a nightmare about her husband, Oscar’s death that occurred around seven years prior. Ameila is soon awoken by her six-year-old son, Robbie (Daniel Henshall). Most of the beginning is setting up how much of an outsider each of them is. Robbie is a strange boy that is unusually afraid of monsters, so much so that he actually constructs weapons to use against them. He also displays signs of intense anxiety, such as grinding his teeth and clutching his mother tightly while he sleeps. This also prevents Amelia from getting any real rest.

Amelia is a strained mother that is unable to even hear her dead husbands name without getting upset. Neither is shown to have any friends outside of their elderly neighbor. Both seem to be seen as odd or pitiful. One night while getting ready for bed, Robbie chooses a story for Amelia to read titled, “Mister Babadook.”

The story is grim and scary. It describes a creature that invades your home and will eventually, after you “let it in,” make you want to die. Also, you can never get rid of it. Ever. Being deeply disturbed by the book, Amelia hides it away, but the damage has already been done. Robbie begins to speak to, Mister Babadook, and scares other children, further isolating the two. Robbie begins to get teased and he lashes out, hurting a child. This drives Amelia to the end of her rope. Right when she seems to be at her breaking point she also starts experiencing strange things. She hears knocking and voices through the house at night. Her lights flicker. The, “Mister Babadook,” book she hid in her room appears in Robbie’s room. This final incident drives her to tear apart and throw the book in the trash.

The book soon reappears on her doorstep, taped together and containing new pages. These pages depict her murdering the families dog, Robbie, and finally, herself. Hoping to find some sort of help, she goes to her sister who merely says she is unable to deal with Amelia’s problems. The police are no better and tell her there’s no help to be offered. Feeling fully alone, things escalate as the Babadook reveals himself to Amelia and possesses her. She begins to act hostile to those around her, particularly Robbie. Tensions soon reach a boiling point when the Babadook takes full control of Amelia and she does murder the family dog. It isn’t long before she chases Robbie as well.

Luckily, the weapons he made to fight the monster come in handy. He ends up trapping her in the basement and, with the power of a child’s love for his mother, helps to loosen the Babadook’s hold on Amelia. However, when things seem to be in the clear, we are reminded that you can never get rid of the Babadook. Ever. Amelia and Robbie are once again attacked by the creature, and it forces Amelia to relive the night her husband was killed. He died in a car accident while driving her to the hospital to have Robbie. Through this final acceptance of that night, Amelia is able to gather the strength to fight the Babadook and drive it down in to the basement.

Here is where I’d like to take a little bit of a detour and rewind. Normally, I don’t dissect movies this thoroughly, but it happens to be something that I connect with personally and wanted to share that experience with you, dear readers, as I feel it’s something that could be deeply beneficial. Though this movie is tense and creepy as all get out, there’s something else even more powerful at work.

This movie is indeed a fantastic horror movie. It also the most potent visual representation of an experience with severe mental disorder(s) that I’ve ever seen. The theme is visible throughout, however it’s subtle enough to where you think it’s simply a side effect of the actual plot. The final act of the movie changes all of this, especially the ending. We come to see that this analogy is central to the entire plot. To break it down as simply as possible, the Babadook in this movie is a representation of the mental disorder(s) that Amelia has developed due to her husband’s death and her inability to cope with it. After nearly seven years of repressing what happened, going through the various stressors of Robbie’s problems, work, and even a nasty toothache culminate to form this monster.

One of the biggest metaphors in the movie besides the Babadook itself is the basement. The basement is where Amelia keeps all of Oscars things. Whenever they’re disturbed she becomes extremely upset. She has packed all of these things up and literally locked them away. Amelia has also locked away the memory of her husband as best as she can. Robbie is shown to frequently go down in to the basement and go through Oscar’s things. He wants desperately to know his father, but Amelia can’t bare the thought of him.

This is a huge source of tension between them. We are shown moments where her repressed anger towards Robbie flares out and it mostly centers around his actions in the basement. Due to this physical and mental repression of sadness and anger, Amelia’s not able to connect with her son. She is also unable to cope with other things in her life. She is stressed at work because her boss is a jerk and eventually avoids going. Amelia is consistently tired and seems aloof. She pulls herself away from those around her, isolating herself to the point when she does reach out for help it’s ignored.

When Amelia encounters the Babadook she has violent mood swings. She yells at Robbie and then immediately tries to make up for it. These mood swings escalate to her killing the dog and trying to kill Robbie. All of these can be symptoms of some mental disorders, including depression. Most of them in the movie are attributed to the Babadook. In the end, only with the love and support of her son is she able to summon the strength to overcome her Babadook. Similar to a mental disorder, however, the Babadook never really leaves.

This is why I wanted to save the ending.

After banishing her Babadook to the basement, Amelia and her son have a new, stronger relationship. They are able to talk openly about Oscar. You can see and feel that they are genuinely connected on a deeper level, however the Babadook is still there. One of the final scenes is Amelia taking a bowl of worms down in to the basement. Where she once kept Oscar’s things (his memory) locked away, she now keeps her Babadook (her disorder) under control. A simple and effective nod to how Amelia has accepted Oscar’s passing and that her Babadook grew from her repression of that night. Amelia sets the bowl on the floor of the basement and her Babadook emerges from the darkness, literally bending her over backwards.

However, she copes with it. She tells it to be calm and breathe, much like you would do if dealing with a panic or anxiety attack. Her Babadook backs down and takes its meal back in to the shadows, leaving Amelia able to return to Robbie. The imagery here hit me so hard I was brought to tears. It was at that moment that I fully realized what the Babadook was meant to symbolize and how well it was done throughout the film. I have never seen a better depiction of what its like to go through a mental disorder before.

Earlier I mentioned how I felt this dissection would be beneficial and this scene is why. Attempting to describe what a panic attack, depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder truly feels like to those that haven’t experienced it can be tasking at best, but here it’s done perfectly. It feels like a strange, relentless creature has invaded your life and wants nothing but to hurt you and those around you. It changes you and those around you might not understand what’s happening and therefore shun you. You feel alone, scared, hurt and you lash out at those you love. You might even hurt them, but with support you can control it. You can calm it and you can have a normal life, but it will never leave you. If you have someone in your life going through something like this or you yourself are, here is a movie to describe what this experience is like. Perhaps it can create some understanding for those in your life and help to quell some of your own Babadooks, dear readers.

Acting:

As I mentioned earlier, the acting in this movie is impeccable. Essie and Daniel are incredibly talented and able to tap in to the characters of Amelia and Robbie with such depth that I sometimes worried about their own actual safety. Essie plays not only the role of an aloof women trying to get by the best she can, but also a wrecked human that is unraveling faster than she can keep up with and she does it with ease. Her transition through the movie is vivid and tangible. We can she her walls breaking down as her stressors pile up. Daniel is the perfect counter part of a child that has yet to have a mother. He knows she’s in there and he loves her, but he is unable to reach her. He’s also a bit of shit, but that’s what children who feel cornered and neglected do; act out. He is relentless in his pursuit of what he believes is right and his performance never feels forced or unnatural. I think the kid has a bright future in this business.

Visuals:

The shots in this movie should be framed and hung in a gallery they are so magnificent. The use of darkness is astonishing as it feels like there is always a bit of shadow somewhere in the scene, reminding us that a malevolent presence is never far away. The use of dream sequences and time lapses were mind blowing. They helped to create a feeling of never being quite fully awake and that time was always slipping away, even though the entire movie takes place only over the course of two weeks. It adds to the tension already set up by the plot and gets you lost in the world these two people have become trapped in.

Though I know it’s not a visual thing, I did also want to mention the soundtrack to this movie. Not only is the music subtle enough to merely lull you in to the scene, but the use of sounds in conjunction with the Babadook is brilliant. For example, there’s a scene where Amelia has just awoken from a nap and begins to wonder the house. Voices and sounds can heard, seemingly coming from inside of her, but suddenly stop whenever she notices them. It makes you feel the frantic nature of the scene and how she might wonder if what’s happening around her is real or not.

What Say I:

I love this movie with all of my heart. Not only does it offer great cinematography, interesting sound, but it has a plot that floored me like few others have. I feel like this isn’t just a normal, creepy movie (though it is a good one), but a movie with a real expression of a seldom well-captured experience. I do recommend this movie to anyone willing to watch, but I do warn you that it might hit you a little harder than you expect.

Credits & Other Stuff:

Writer: Jennifer Kent
Director: Jennifer Kent

Trailer for, The Babadook.

About The Author

A graduate in Creative Writing, I love horror, scifi, action, and revenge movies, but b-movies hold a special place in my heart.

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