The Babadook was one of those rare gems which I found myself excited to watch. I am a huge fan of eighties horror classics and I have found that most modern horror movies are far too predictable. I began to watch the Babadook with the same scepticism, which admittedly makes watching horror (and romance) films difficult for me to stick with. The Babadook did not disappoint me. I went in, predicting the ending and scoffing at the horror clichés however what Jennifer Kent does with these cliches is a wonder breath of fresh air. She takes the classics of a mother-son relationship, of a monster in the closet and a nice neighbourhood and add a fantastic twist to them all.
As much as I hate suspense, I absolutely love a good suspense movie and The Babadook definitely fills my requirements. There are multiple scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, peaking through my fingers and squealing, only for it to cut away at the very last second. Kent combines a brilliant combination of suspense filled music, editing and camera angles that helps build this fear. We are taken through Amelia’s nightmare with her, feeling what she is feeling and reeling in the reality of her horror as she does. I had already seen the scene where the Babadook had leapt from the ceiling at her, but even after seeing it several times, I still got a fright. This was due to the fact that I had only seen that one scene without any context. It was a whole lot more jump-scare with context than I had braced myself for. The entire film was an emotional rollercoaster for me, as I screamed in frustration at Amelia, felt her pain about Samuel, and routed for the kid at the end. I had multiple ‘holy fuck’ moments and I admit I stuck on YouTube that night to keep me company as I feel asleep, and even got out of bed to slam my wardrobe doors shut.
As a viewer you are thrown right into the action. There was no establish shot, no scene which introduced the perfect little life that Amelia and Samuel had, it was pure and utter devastating chaos. We were flung straight into Amelia’s deepest fears and regrets. At first, we aren’t sure what is happening but, through the words of Samuel, we learn that poor Amelia lost her husband the same day she gained Samuel. It is this depression and loneliness that Amelia has clung to for the last seven years that the Babadook feeds on.
Samuel, like all children, was extremely perspective to his mother’s moods, and I believe deep down that part of Amelia truly wished that her husband had survived and not Samuel. I am not saying Amelia didn’t love Samuel but she was clinging to a guilt which she blamed herself for the death of her husband and unfortunately poor Samuel was the one who was at the receiving end of it all. Samuel is an extremely brave boy with a grasp on reality and survival. A lot of children his age have grown out of the boogeyman, but I think Samuel knew of The Babadook’s existence before he and Amelia accidentally let it into their house. He was constantly promising to protect his mother whilst simultaneously screaming at her “Do you want to die?!” every time she rejected his claims. It was through Samuel’s beliefs in both his mother and that he could beat the monster in the closet, that they survived.
Like every horror movie before the Babadook, it starts with rejection: the mother rejecting the idea that the boogeyman exists. It ends with the child being right all along and the sole reason why they survived. I admit I find this concept over used and extremely taxing. There’s only so much mother-son horror-dramas that one person can handle. However, the Babadook took this overused idea and turned it around. Instead of the mother and son having either a picture perfect relationship or a bond from hell, the Babadook made Amelia’s relationship with Samuel realistic and believable. Kent showed the struggles that Amelia, a widower and a single mother was going through: she was struggling to move on from the death of her husband, she was struggling to bond with the other parents, her relationship with her sister was damaged beyond repair and on top of all that, Samuel was lashing out at school and constantly getting into trouble. It was devastating to watch poor Amelia struggle with everything, and the appearance of the Babadook only made things a lot worse.
I have read on multiple other review sites that The Babadook is a metaphor for depression. The more I think about this idea, the more it grows on me. At first, I saw this movie as a another horror-drama with a predictable ending, but it’s meaning goes a whole lot deeper. The movie is a journey through Amelia’s five stages of grief, as she tries to break free from her Babadook, save her son and move on after the death of her husband. This next part of the review is going to look at each of the five stages of grief and how Amelia goes through with it all.
1: DENIAL: Like every mother in every horror mother, Amelia denies the existence of the Babadook. Amelia struggles against her son’s strong beliefs in the Babadook, often yelling and losing her temper with the poor child. At one point, she attempts to destroy the original book in an attempt to stop the madness once and for all, but as always, the book comes back. In it is a phrase “the more you deny the stronger I get”. This could be seen as a visual for denial in grief; the more a person attempts to deny and ignore their grief, the more it grows and the more difficult it gets to ignore. Even after the destroyed book shows up again, Amelia convinces herself it isn’t real, and goes to the police to report the Babadook is actually a stalker
2. ANGER: This happens in two separate plots to the narrative. The first is Amelia’s anger at her son: at the fact he will not grow out of the monster stage of childhood, that he insist on taking weapons with and even hurts his own cousin out of his anger. She grows frustrated with her son, which allows The Babadook to get into their home, and eventually into Amelia herself. The second is the anger she feels at herself. Amelia blames herself for the death of her husband, and deep down she is struggling to get over it. In her guilt and grief, she finds herself both blaming her son and not. the Babadook feeds on this anger, telling her son that Amelia wishes her son had died and not her husband. Unfortunately for her son, Samuel is too smart to believe the lies the Babadook spins him, even though it hurts him nonetheless.
3. BARGAINING: This is where The Babadook strikes Amelia at her lowest point. He plays with her vulnerability, and promises her, her deepest desire: to be reunited with her husband. The only problem is that the Babadook is demanding her son and dogs life in return. In her weakest moment, Amelia comes close to accepting the deal. However she rejects it, which forces the Babadook to intervene.
4. DEPRESSION: This is growing closer to the finale. Amelia is at her weakest point: she’s been taking over by The Babadook and appears ready to give up. She has been struggling with her depression for seven years, and appears to be unwilling to move from it. She clings to memories of her husband, of his final moments, which only feeds into her guilt, making it impossible for her to want to carry on in multiple scenes in throughout the moment. She is willing to just give up. It is her son’s defiance and determination to save his mum that helps her through this trailing stage.
5. ACCEPTANCE: I believe the way she expelled The Babadook from her body was by eventually accepting her life. She finally accepted that there was no way that her husband was going to come back: that The Babadook’s bargaining was merely a rouse to get her to murder her son. When she reaches the final stage it is then, and only then, that she is able to finally beat the Babadook into submission.
It is the ending I want to discuss now. I was so excited and hyped about this ending. I had somehow managed to avoid spoilers of the ending for three years (so I apologise for spoiling it in advanced) so the ending came as a surprise.
As I have mentioned several times already: I found certain aspects of the movie predictable. Despite predicting that everyone would survive (apart from the dog, which I am still mad about), the ending was not what I excepted. I was caught of guard when Amelia went into the basement, revealing that The Babadook was now living there, and even promising her tormented son that he could see it when it’s older. I found this ending interesting before I read about the Babadook being an acronym for depression. Reviewing the ending with this revelation in my head makes much more sense.
The ending of the movie, for me, is telling viewers that the depression never goes away, that you will never stop mourning the loss of a loved one and that’s okay. You’ll learn to live with it, like Amelia has and like Amelia, once you have been through the five stages of grief, things will get better. The movie ending is saying that if Amelia can survive and learn to live and look after herself, her son and her Babadook, then so can you. I find this ending extremely touching and meaningful, unlike most horror movie endings. It was a satisfying ending that gave me closure to the movie. It doesn’t kill off the monster, or send it back to hell, it sends it to a dark corner where it can live and survive and adapt, even recognising Amelia when she comes to feed it and relaxing around her.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Babadook. It was a suspense filled masterpiece of a movie, and I would gladly watch it again… with the lights on. It has given me faith in modern horror movies, proving to me that even now, I can still get a good care from these films. I’m not one for blood and gore; it’s more suspense horrors that I love, and The Babadook fills my criteria for a good horror movie: unpredictable, a decent sound track, good suspense building, and a few jump-scares thrown in for good measure. I want to praise Jennifer Kent for her creation of The Babadook and I am looking forward to seeing what she does next.