The Babadook (2014)

I had several people recommend this one to me for a long while before I actually decided to sit down and watch it. I tend to be very hesitant to watch modern horror movies, as I have this perception that they heavily rely on jump scares and gore and not much plot. After seeing the Invitation, however, this started to change a bit. The Babadook only furthered this change, as it was not at all what I had imagined it to be and I’m really glad I gave it a shot.

I wouldn’t say that I loved the whole movie. In fact, I think that it kind of dragged in the first act and moved slower than a movie should in some ways. However, this is an incredibly well-done analogy for grief and depression. The way that it drags in the beginning even works for this metaphor and wonderfully captures what it feels like to be depressed. Everyone seems to be against our main character, Amelia, even her own son. People in her life who act kindly to her are pushed aside and the ones who are negative or unhelpful are amplified. This gives the audience a sort of second-degree isolation. There’s a particular emphasis on her sister, Claire, who is always talking about herself and is entirely unsympathetic to Amelia’s loss of her husband. Another focus is Sam, her son, who acts out, yells, makes weapons, and generally is a pain in the ass. Amelia is trying to keep her life in order while dealing with Sam’s misbehavior and coping with the death of her husband. The first act of the film serves to build this story and these characters and within the analogy of mental illness, it works perfectly. As a movie, it doesn’t work as well. Personally, I think that the scene of the state officials (they were like truant officers but it was in Australia so I’m not sure exactly what their position was) was unnecessary and I wish we got into the action with the Babadook a little earlier, but that’s just me.

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The Babadook itself was unbelievably cool and very spooky. I think that the idea of the story book was interesting, it kind of plays on the trope of saying a name that unleashes the monster or watching something that puts a curse on you while making it new and unique. I liked that we didn’t get to see every single page of the book. It was a rushed sequence as Amelia sort of fixated on how horrific it was while Sam is getting more and more scared. It was interesting how big of a focus the actual book was, how it turns up later after they burn it, the different pages that appear later on when Amelia reads it again, etc. We also get these strange tv segments that are like silent movie era clips. They slowly show the Babadook more and more in these trippy scenes. The actual appearance of the Babadook is a great blend of children’s book character and fucking terrifying. He takes a couple forms, in a way, but mostly he is in shadow and we only see his silhouette – top hat, hunch, and long claws.

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*spoilers?*

I wanna talk about Sam and the actor who plays him for a moment. His character was really intense and I was super impressed with the actor’s ability. For a child actor, he did an incredible job in an intense and demanding role. Sam screams, cries, sees things, and is violent as well as having very mature and emotional moments with Amelia. He tries to reason with her about the Babadook, begging her not to let it in. He sees the Babadook from the beginning and there are scenes where he is looking at it but there’s nothing there. His arch within the movie makes me think that maybe his behavior earlier in the film was exaggerated by Amelia’s mental illness and when she gets things under control by the end he seems less violent and more agreeable.

Quick aside: there’s this super cute moment almost during the climax (like, close to the climax but not yet) where their neighbor, this sweet old woman, comes over and tells Amelia that she loves Amelia and Sam and that she would do anything for them. To see this woman support Amelia when everyone else was kind of against her was so great.

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Another thing to note in this movie are some of the kinda fucked up scenes. Amelia pulls out her fuckin tooth while possessed by the Babadook. She kills the dog! It’s so fucking messed up. There’s also a scene where Sam has to tie Amelia down in their basement. (Which is awesome, btw, because he does a pretty shitty job of tying her up, which makes sense because he’s like 10). The Babadook itself has some pretty terrifying moments, skittering up walls and crawling places.

Overall I was pretty impressed with the narrative that this movie told. It took the traditional movie monster and curse and reinvented it, using its elements to tell a story about mental illness. The acting was superb, the images were scary but polished, and the story was captivating.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

P.S.: I’m gonna stop doing ratings out of a number, it’s too difficult to really capture the movie like that. I think you’ll understand how I feel about a movie after reading the review.

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