Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Directed by Jennifer Kent
A sinister book disguised as a children’s story haunts a single mother struggling to help her child move on from believing in monsters.
Amelia and her son have difficulties with living in the real world. Almost seven years have passed since the death of her husband in a tragic car accident- which occurred while she was in labor on the way to the hospital. Amelia cannot move on from accepting her husband’s death as she deals with what came out of the situation: a fatherless child. Her son, Samuel, believes it is his duty to protect his mother from monsters. He spends his days at home building clever contraptions to injure and capture the monsters.
Every night Amelia reads to her son a book but it is the one night that she lets him pick the story out that makes her believe monsters are real. The Babadook is a graphic pop-out book that rhymes with a bone-chilling ending. Though she does not finish reading the book aloud to her son, Amelia can’t shake the words she had read from her mind. Even after disposing the book, the Babadook comes to life to haunt her.
The Babadook is more than just a scary bedtime story. It’s psychological, making Amelia face something she has tried to repress for years: the little bit of resentment that her son lived and her husband didn’t. The Babadook grows stronger as she denies her emotions and it takes control of her. Her possession becomes a battle of whether she lets her grief absorb her and destroy her family or if the only family she has left is worth keeping.
The movie sets up the viewers sympathy with Amelia as a single mother raising a disobedient child. Samuel frequently screams at his mother and can’t play well with the other children at school. Between the stress of her job and keeping Samuel in a school who can properly take care of him, Amelia falls apart. As the Babadook takes over her, sympathies switch to Samuel whose smart inventions help save his mother.
At the end of the movie, take a few minutes to let the ending sink in and understand what it means. To me, that made all the difference of judging it as a bad movie to good. The thrills and suspense are all there, a decent plot is clear, and the resolution is satisfying. The Babadook can’t go away but Amelia’s acknowledgement and acceptance for her emotions tame the beast.