The Babadook (2014) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 27th March, 2018
In this Australian-Canadian horror fantasy, a mother called Emilia, who has lost her husband to a car crash, is trying to raise her disobedient son Samuel all by herself, while also committing to her job as a nurse. While her sister has her life together, Emilia struggles to bring up her strangely behaved son, and begins resenting the child.
One day, Samuel finds an odd pop-up book called “The Babadook” on his shelf, he asks Emilia to read it, the book warns of a dark entity called the Babadook, and it frightens Sam. Emilia gets rid of the book, only to be continued to be haunted by this creature, with the book even being restored at one point. Things get worse, when the Babadook finally appears, takes over Emilia’s already unhealthy mind, and goes after little Samuel.
I really like horror movies that set out to be more than a simple slasher story or exploitative torture porn, ones that have something deeper to them, and try to convey substance through layers of symbolism. “The Babadook” is one such film, as it’s actually less about the menacing title character, and more about a woman’s refusal to grieve over her deceased partner.
In fact, the Babadook doesn’t appear that frequently in the film, which not only builds up his disturbing presence, but also draws more attention to the more realistic plotline in the film, and thus making the film have more valuable complexities beyond being about a horror entity.
The film even throws us off sometimes, by implying that these strange things happening, are the result of Samuel simply being sick, when really, he’s the product of his mother’s cold apathetic way of dealing with her grief. However, Samuel ends up becoming the empowered hero of the film, thanks to his pure innocence and knack for building homemade weapons.
The Babadook clearly finds himself attracted to Emilia’s emotional restraint, possibly because it makes it easier to for him to possess her, and use her body to get to Samuel. He’s a figure of darkness that resembles Emilia’s stubborn denial about not being over her husband’s death, he makes his presence heard or implied throughout the film, and this keeps us in suspense about it’s eventual appearance.
When he does finally say hello, he has creepy insectoid features, the noises he makes sound familiar yet also twisted, his voice is otherworldly in nature, and his features are unnervingly hard to read in the dark. He’s meant to resemble a storybook villain, yet it’s like his author had no concern about how scary he’d be to kids, and this makes his book kind of sick to read.
It helps that this family’s house is really drab and dreary, from the old wallpaper, to the bland choices of paint colours, because it generates a moody atmosphere for horror scenes, while also reflecting the lethargic lifestyle that Emilia is leading. This is all heightened, when the home is juxtaposed against other locations, which are well lit and full of colour.
The movie is also cruel enough to play around with our perception of reality, because the director is a sadist who wants us to sweat in fear haha! The characters’ inability to stay asleep, leads to many scenes bouncing in and out of nightmares or flashbacks, while clips from the television are spliced in to create a dreamy atmosphere too.
I have to praise the excellent acting as well! Noah Wiseman is one of those rare child actors who can actually act, doing an ace job nailing the innocence and quirkiness of his character. Essie Davis is breathtaking as Emilia, realistically portraying a mother losing her mind, while also excelling in the scenes of possession, to help us believe that she’s a genuine threat to Samuel, and the Babadook is actually inside her.
To conclude, “The Babadook” is one of those rare horror films that’s actually scary, relying on atmospheric storytelling and mature symbolism, to convey a horror tale with more depth than a shallow jump scare fest. I can’t count how many times I froze up or scalded the film for freaking me out, it can get THAT disturbing.
It takes horror back to the genre’s hey day, by attaching real life suburban issues to a dark fantasy fable, and I can’t suggest it enough to my fellow horror fans. I’d even say that my review only covers a portion of the layers in this film, it has so many other themes to explore, that’s what makes it richer than your typical horror movie, and I’d love to let you all read into the film yourselves.