Childhood and motherhood are important phases for many of us, but they can also become very conflicting. Not all childhoods are wonderful and the honor of being a mother is not exactly easy. When a child and mother interact, there are many different emotions that come into play. Thoughts like, “Am I going to be a good mother?” are productive thoughts that could make a family very happy. On the other hand, there are some dark thoughts that every mother has, but can’t really express. The Babadook is the perfect depiction of those dark thoughts and how our own grief can turn to hatred.
The Babadook juxtaposes the themes of childhood and motherhood in a brilliant, albeit terrifying, manner. The story begins with the introductions of Amelia (Essie Davis), a widowed mother, and Samuel (Noah Wiseman), the angry and imaginative child. Seven years earlier, Amelia’s husband died in a car crash while bringing her to the hospital to give birth to Sam. Due to this traumatic event, the connection between Amelia and Sam is tense and poisonous. Sam consistently displays bizarre behavior like insomnia and preoccupation with imaginary monsters. This fixation with monsters is so strong, that Sam begins making weapons and telling other families about the horrible monsters that are out to get his mom and him. Amelia’s overwhelming grief can turn to hatred, which results in a toxic relationship with her son. There are sexual overtones and constant grief shared between the two due to the loss of the father. The tension comes to a head when the two decide to read a children’s book called The Babadook. Amelia immediately realizes that this book is not suitable for kids and attempts to destroy it. Sadly, destroying the book and her grief isn’t that simple.
What this film does brilliantly is explore complicated themes in a very honest and truthful way. At its core, The Babadook is a simple movie. Amelia is suffering from extreme depression over the loss of her husband and Samuel blames himself for his father’s death. When the grief becomes overwhelming, Amelia blames her son for her husband’s death. While most of us haven’t had to deal with this particular situation, we can all empathize with the struggles of grief and parenting. Mister Babadook is the perfect embodiment not only of the hatred and anger we can have for the people we love, but also the powers of depression. I have not seen another movie on this planet that so aptly represented what it felt like to hate and to be hated. The viewer feels empathy for Sam and Amelia at the same time, which is a powerful emotion considering the tense interactions they have with each other.
It can be difficult to take a loaded theme like childhood and motherhood and make it as terrifying as it actually is. The use of a children’s book brings the viewer back to a time when they were completely at ease. The mother or father would read to you, while you relaxed on the couch or bed. There was a feeling of helplessness, but a wonderful one where you were in the safety of your parents. The Babadook takes those memories that many of us have and twists them in a horrific way. Ultimately, there is an incredibly thin line between feeling comfortable and uncomfortable.
There is no doubt about it, Mister Babadook is absolutely terrifying. The way it changes shapes, its ability to take over the body and its ability to surprise makes the viewer feel completely out of control. Even when you know Mister Babadook is coming, you are still scared. Many viewers will argue that the film drags at points, but I firmly believe that every scene in this film has a purpose and helps foster the suspense and tension created throughout.
A sign of a great film is when it can resonate with every form of fan. Horror movie buffs that want a more ethereal and emotional movie will love this film just as much as fans that are more interested in gore and pop scares. I don’t believe it is a stretch to say that this is one of the finest horror films of the last 10 years.
Mister Babadook is always coming and even after finishing the film I have no desire to open up a children’s book. As human beings, we understand the power of family. This film is so powerful that it is capable of manipulating love into hatred and the sane into the insane. The Babadook is a perfect film and one of the great horror films since 2000. No matter what kind of horror fan you are … watch this movie.
If you liked The Babadook, you might also like Psycho.