When you experience loss, it is important to let yourself experience grief. It is a natural emotion and for many, it is just a part of life. If grief is left to its own desires, however, it can tear a person apart. The Babadook is a psychological horror film that tackles this concept head on, to great effect.
The movie focuses on a widow, Amelia, and her young son, Samuel. The movie opens to a slow motion nightmare of Amelia’s, reliving the car wreck that claimed the life of her husband when she was in labor with Sam. The viewer is quickly acquainted with what has become of Amelia’s life as a single mother with a whacked-out son – a stressful slog with no real help or end in sight. Sam’s behavior is incorrigible, taking apart items in the house to construct elaborate weapons to vanquish the various monsters he claims to encounter.
Amelia is clearly miserable and has not moved on from the loss of her husband, keeping his belongings locked up in the basement and reacting violently to anyone who mentions him. She suffers from tremendous depression and sleep deprivation – I’d wager to call it melancholy. Sam’s behavior has driven her to wit’s end, and it shows. The final straw comes when Sam brings his weapons to school and is consequently expelled. Amelia is stuck with Sam at home and it’s not helping either one cope with the obvious emotional issues they possess.
Amelia lets Sam pick a book for his bedtime story – problem is, it’s not one that Amelia remembers putting on the shelf, much less buying. With the title ‘Mister Babadook’, you immediately know this is the beginning of the end. What follows after opening that book is the culmination of a possession – or psychosis. It appears as the metaphorical opening of a door that can’t shut because of a lack of proper emotional/spiritual latches.
That’s the beauty of this movie – it works on multiple levels. At face value, the Babadook is an evil demon that feeds on children and wants nothing more than to inflict misery on all who let him in to their homes. If you dig a little deeper, you can see the symbolism and manifestation of Amelia’s grief, causing severe psychosis and sleep deprivation. This one-two punch leads to Amelia’s wholesale abuse and neglect of young Sam, who acts out because he is powerless to handle the situation he’s stuck in.
Amelia has internalized the abuse of her son and conveniently packages it as the fault of a boogeyman – The Babadook. Subtle hints are scattered throughout the film, but the one that led me to the realization that things weren’t as they seem came when Amelia admitted to writing children’s books in the past. She created ‘Mister Babadook’ during one of her manic episodes, and doesn’t realize it when she normalizes. The ending is about as ambiguous as you can get, (I think she’s dreaming and actually ended up doing something horrible to Sam) and the entire ride is well worth it.
The Babadook was one of the best horror/thriller films I’ve seen. I really appreciated the lo-fi, practical effect approach (being more reliant on lighting and obscured shots to build tension and fear without resorting to incessant jump scares. Excellent execution throughout – the movie seems concise and every scene plays a role in building the larger story, and really build that age-old lesson that our own monsters are far worse than anything we can conjure up. Additionally, the book and illustrations were very well done, and would make an awesome reproduction prop. They really should produce and sell that to kids. That’s just some good, clean fun for all ages. =D
It’s a must watch!
Platinum Squid Rating
Let it in! Let it in! Let it in!