I’ve never heard of a monster called the Babadook before so I was immediately intrigued when I heard about this Australian movie about a mom and a child who are being plagued by a mysterious presence in their household. At first, I thought the Babadook was another spin on the Boogeyman but as it turned out, it was something far more sinister.
Single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) lost her husband to a car accident when their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was about to be born. As a result, she became defeated and depressed, and grew more tired as she raised Samuel, a task made more difficult by his delusions of monsters in his room. When reading a mysterious book that appeared in Samuel’s bookshelf, Amelia starts to feel the book affecting her as well. Gripped by fear, she tries to fight off the darkness in a bid to protect what remained of her family.
If I could choose one word to describe the entire first half of the movie, it would be “depressing.” Essie Davis couldn’t communicate her depression any better than what she did in this movie and Noah Wiseman’s constant badgering was super annoying that even while the character of Amelia was not immediately endearing to the audience, people will get a sense of what she’s been going through and understand her a bit. Honestly, I mostly felt irked during the first half of the movie because it really took its sweet time establishing such a negative feeling.
Ironically, it was the introduction of the Babadook that breathed life into the characters of both mother and son. It seemed like the spark that spurred the movie on in a good direction, moving it forward in a much more urgent pacing. While the movie was not scary all the time, it managed to build a sense of suspense and underlying evil that engaged the audience as each stage was revealed. The horror scenes were also tastefully executed and did not go overboard with the gore. Instead, it teased the audience about some of the sequences, leaving them to scare themselves by filling in the blanks.
However, what’s great about the movie was not the horror in itself but what the Babadook stood for — depression, a real life monster that regular people have to deal with in real life. Amelia’s symptoms were all related to depression and her downward spiral could also be attributed to the disease. Using a monster to represent the illness was a creative way for writer/ director Jennifer Kent to advocate an awareness about the extent of damage that depression can do to a person, physically and psychologically especially if not addressed properly.
All in all, The Babadook was a great horror film that effectively managed to connect a fictional monster to a real life threat, making the horror real and imminent for its viewers. A similar movie, Enemy tried to do the same thing but while it was stunningly interpreted on film, it was a bit too cryptic and complicated and served mostly to confuse the audience than entertain them. So good job, Team Babadook. 😀 Mission accomplished.