Review: THE BABADOOK (2014)
"If it's in a word,
or its in a look,
you can't get rid of...
The Babadook is old news, I know. I viewed if for the first time a few weeks ago and it's been a top of discussion in a lot of my horror movie Facebook groups. Within these groups, I have noticed that there are people who fell head over heels in love with it and others that would rather watch a puppy choke. Within this article, I'd like to take a moment to dive into why I was in the batch of viewers that fell and fell hard for The Babadook.
The Babadook is an Australian psychological horror film written and directed by Jennifer Kent. Call me a feminist but the fact it was written by a woman definitely was a point that caught my attention. It was released here in the states on November 28th, 2014 and grossed $913,720 here in the US and grossed $4,830,720. That is more than double the estimated production budget of $2 million.
The wiki facts of the film weren't something that I looked into before viewing it. I was simply going off of friend's reviews which usually included something along the lines of "JUST WATCHED THE BABADOOK AND IT WAS BAD ASS!" or "Just watched The Babadook and I want that 95 minutes of my life back, I didn't get it." When a movie gets hot and cold reviews like that, I get excited. What could possibly make people divide so 50/50 on something as simple as a movie. When I finally watched it, I quickly realized why.
After going from Redbox to Redbox trying to find a place to rent it, I buckled down and rented it on our cable providers movies on demand. I think the price was $4.99 for a 24 hour rental. My husband and I were eager to plop on the couch and start the show. I was immediately sucked in.
(These next couple of paragraphs will probably contain spoilers. You've been warned.)
The lead character is Amelia. I called her mom a lot during the movie. She has one hellion of a son, Sam, but he's pretty messed up for good reason. Mom and Sam lost dad to a car accident while en route to the hospital to deliver baby Sam. Amelia is a soft spoken and tired lady. Seriously. Within 10 minutes of the movie I cold tell this poor woman needed a nap. You really start to feel for this single mom due to the fact that her son is pretty much a lunatic. He randomly has freaks outs and seizures on top of never really sleeping at night. He also makes pretty intricate homemade weapons to keep him and his mom safe from the boogeymen that he has in his head. You can tell this kid has good intentions when he comes to protecting his mother but when is it excessive? There's even a part where mom goes to flick her bean (masturbate for our slower readers) and Sam bursts in and ruins it RIGHT as soon as she's about to reach Funkytown. My husband even made the comment "Did she get it!?" You don't really know. It's a mystery. RIP to Amelia's orgasm.
Ok, let's get back on track. Sam's behavior gets worse pretty quickly as the film goes on. Amelia even has to take him out of school at one point because she feels they are not sensitive to Sam's needs. I believe that it's the night he gets taken out of school that he finds the mysterious pop up book, Mister Babadook. He asks his mom to read it. The basis of the story is that once you acknowledge his existence Mister Babadook will come for you and torment you. Of course, with Sam's boogeyman infatuation already in existence, this story stimulates his mind even more and he is convinced that by reading the book, they have already fed into it. The Babadook is on his way.
The next few nights things get weird. Sam gets even more aggressive, broken glass appears in mom's food and creepy sounds start haunting the house. Amelia is pretty upset that her paranoia is stemming from a child's pop up book and is even more upset that it caused her already freaky son to become even freakier. She rips up the book and disposes of it. The next day, Sam pushes his cousin out of a tree house for not believing in The Babadook and making fun of him for not having a father. That scene is pretty intense and definitely shows the evil words that kids say to one another without parents around.
Amelia starts to get desperate on what to do. She and Sam haven't really slept in days and it's starting to take ahold of her mentally. She ends up talking a doctor into giving Sam sleeping pills so they can both get a little much needed shut eye. While at home, there's a knock on the door. Amelia answers it and finds the Mister Babadook pop up book on her doorstep. She reluctantly brings it in and re-reads it. It's a little different this time. It has transformed into something a little more sinister and pretty much warns her that since she has pushed it away, denying it's existence, it has now grown stronger. It even metaphorically shows that The Babadook has started to grow inside of her and depicts an event where she will kill the dog, strangle Sam and then slit her own throat. This gets Amelia's blood pumping and she runs outside to burn the book in the grill. After coming back in, she get's the famous eerie "Baaabaaadoook dook dook" phone call. She goes to the police to report a possible stalking case but they don't take her very seriously, especially since she burnt the book, AKA, her only evidence.
The Babadook starts to appear in the house and in the neighbors house. Amelia's behavior becomes disturbing. She no longer treats Sam like her son but more of a burden like that of a bad roommate that always pays rent late and eats all your food. The sorrow you felt at the beginning for her is starting to sway more towards Sam. You have a terrified little boy who is drugged out on sleeping pills scared of his own mother. With that being said, he knows what's going on and even though he is frightened, he stays true to his word on keeping his mother safe. He tries to call the neighbor for help but Amelia becomes furious, cutting the phone lines and even kills the family dog just like the book said would happen. The Babadook has almost engulfed Amelia whole.
At his last stand, Sam lures his mom into the cellar and ties her up. He screams and pleads with her to fight the inner Babadook that has consumed her. It's like she's possessed. She's putting up a good fight and even starts choking Sam to almost the point of unconsciousness when she sees a apparition of her dead husband that snaps her out of it.
Here's where it gets deep. Amelia has come to terms with her grief and let go of it. In order to live life happily and fulfilled you must let go of any and all past negative energy or it will eat you alive and cause unlimited amounts of personal torment. This inner battle with grief and loss not only effects you, it effects the ones around you. I think that's where I can tell this film was written by a woman. The importance of compassion and strength is very much a key role here. The Babadook isn't a physical being. It is a manifestation of human grief, loss and depression. It must not be ignored or it will only grow stronger.
At the very end of the movie, the two are celebrating Sam's birthday on the exact day. This is the first time they have done that due to Sam's birthday date being the death anniversary of his father. Life started to gain normalcy for the duo. During this scene, they are oddly picking up worms and putting them into a bowl. After getting the nicest and fattest ones from the yard, Amelia goes into the cellar. You hear growling and scratching, almost as if there's a live animal living there. She calms it down with a few gentle words and then leaves the worms on the floor. The creature snatches them and you hear what sounds like heavy eating. This is a representation of keeping negativity, especially grief and loss, in check. You might never fully recover from a lost love or depression but it can be contained so you can get back to living life as normal as possible. Keeping the beast tamed, in a metaphorical sense, is what this film was about. Everyone has the ability to do this, no matter how hard you think you have it.
After coming to the realization that all the action in the movie was raw human emotion manifesting into real energy, my jaw dropped. It's brilliant. I believe the people who didn't enjoy this film were going into it thinking it was going to be a gore filled horror fest. Not all horror movies have to contain blood, guts and ass to be good. The horror in this situation was how our ignored negative energy can quickly spiral out of our control and cause unlimited damage. That is some real life scary stuff. It happens everyday. We are faced with challenges where we can deal with situations or push them down deeper into ourselves to "deal with later." The problem with a that is that we won't deal with it later and it keeps bubbling and bubbling until we strangle our kids and dogs. Ok, maybe not that far for some but it can get pretty intense. The Babadook takes your brain to different places, it forces you to think and that's perfect for a world where cellphones, social media, government conspiracy, and celebrity gossip rot human emotions daily. Why not watch a film that will take care of head and cause deeper thought than wasting away on a stereotypical, everyone dies, killer is still on the loose, left open for a shitty sequel, horror flick? The Babadook was a breath of fresh air that I'm glad I filled my lungs with.