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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Babadook movie review: mother of nightmares

The Babadook green light

Genuinely horrific and deeply scary in a way that draws on the most primal of emotions. A horror flick with rare emotional and psychological resonance.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): I’m not generally optimistic about horror movies these days

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I’m trying to remember the last time an actual, straight-up horror film frightened me. And… I got nuthin’. The Cabin in the Woods comes close, but that was scary in ways that were about undercutting traditional horror tropes. The movies that scare the crap out of me tend to be things like the nuclear-war nightmare-inducer Threads, or the lost-at-sea panic attack Open Water.

But now there’s The Babadook, which is, basically, yer standard haunted-house flick with a bit of demonic-ish possession tossed in for spice. Except it’s genuinely horrific and deeply scary. There are momentary shocks here, and then there are the eerie shadows and the prickling-on-the-back-of-your neck ickies that worm their way into your head only to bubble back up when you least expect them. And they are terrible and awful and — because this is only a movie — wonderful and fun not because a random boogeyman created via a focus-grouping of the Top 10 Things That Creep People Out (dolls! clowns! hockey masks!) jumps out at you, but because they draw on the most primal of emotions that we all experience: Loneliness. Frustration (sexual and emotional). Loss. Grief.

The Babadook is a horror flick with rare emotional and psychological resonance, but never in a way that is pretentious or showy. It’s just a damned good scary movie… maybe one of the best ever. And it’s so simple, really. All it does is put a single mom, Amelia (Essie Davis: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Charlotte’s Web), and her six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), in the pressure cooker of their own sad, gray, near-empty house; stir in Amelia’s exhaustion and inability to cope with Sam’s constant demands for attention and general little-boy rambunctiousness; and top it all with the palpable absence of Amelia’s husband, Sam’s father, who was killed in a car crash years earlier.

Oh, but I love the ambiguity inherent in what happens next! A spooky kids’ picture book called Mister Babadook appears on Sam’s bedroom shelf — which isn’t so weird at first, because kids always seem to turn up with stuff you’d forgotten they had, and lots of kids’ books are dark and playfully sinister. But the promise of the book — that the Babadook with his long scary claws will come a-knockin’, and that “you can’t get rid of the Babadook” once he arrives — seems to come to pass, with strange noises and odd doings creeping up the house. Of course it escalates from there… but is any of it really “real”? Sam is a hugely imaginative child who is, as the movie opens, preparing to fight off monsters, and Amelia is, on top of her other issues, barely sleeping. Could the visit from the Babadook — who becomes increasingly menacing and dangerous — be “merely” a delusion shared between the two of them? Or is the Babadook an “authentic” boogeyman who found some particularly vulnerable prey?

The beautiful thing about this movie is that either interpretation, and any other along that spectrum, works. While the recent tedious parade of horror films attempt to convince us of the utter concrete reality of their spirits, devils, and monsters — which usually fail to have any palpable credibility anyway — The Babadook succeeds because it underscores how our own personal “demons,” which are both real and imaginary at the same time, are the things that hold the most power over us. How Amelia and Samuel cope with the Babadook is an unforgettable expression of their relationship with each other and with their departed husband and father. And that remains true whether the Babadook is “real” or not.

Didn’t I mention? The Babadook is a low-budget, Kickstarter-supported Australian film, the feature debut of writer and director Jennifer Kent. (It’s based on her short film “Monster,” which you can watch at the film’s official site… though you might want to wait until after you see the longer version.) It’s a great example of how getting away from the male-dominated, throw-money-at-it Hollywood paradigm is what The Movies desperately needs these days.


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The Babadook (2014)
US/Can release: Nov 28 2014 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Oct 24 2014

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong supernatural threat, bloody images)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Arianna M

    *SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS* You’ve been warned:

    To the reviewer, whomever he/she may be:

    (I know this review is your opinion, but I’m curious to know if you noticed what I noticed)

    I saw this film with my friends the other day, we were excited to see it, seeing as the reviews on rottentomatoes were at 100% that time, and horror movies nowadays just never do it for us. (We loved Oculus though, unrelated, but nevertheless) So we plopped down our weekly allowance to the ticket lady, and walked in. We were all biased to like it (cause we’re not money wasters) but to our surprise this was like the most boring movies of the year. All the reviews claimed: Oooh! It’s true horror, truly frightening! All 5 of us were just so annoyed by the kid (I guess it’s effective, still, bad movie experience) and we all wanted Amelia dead. ALso, half the theater walked out after an hour but we stayed. We were all like WTF!? Cause the ending *MORE SPOILERS AHEAD* was so abysmally asinine. Okay here’s what I thought:

    The first two acts of the film are one long slog. Recurring images of
    Sam getting scared, Amelia looking in the closet, Amelia chiding sam,
    Amelia and Sam in front of the T.V., Amelia losing sleep, and Sam
    obnoxiously disobeying her every instruction. While in front of the TV,
    we get to see these two watching old horror films, B&W cartoons, and
    other artsy stuff, cause it’s an art film, duh. Also, Sam sees himself
    as a certified illusionist, a wannabe magician and due to the endless
    support of mom, he makes use of exploding mini firecrackers! Totally
    something you’d buy for a seven year old, totally.

    And I just want to point out that we observed to be Amelia a ridiculously awful parent. Just incase letting a kid own
    firecrackers wasn’t a good enough evidence, here’s another one:

    Despite Sam taking a makeshift slingshot to school, the school
    offers to hire a psychiatrist to “talk” to Sam but, Amelia turns them
    down. I was at first, genuinely shocked that Sam wasn’t expelled. Anyway
    here’s what Amelia does, she takes Sam out of school and lies to her
    boss that he’s sick just so she can be with him. Her job isn’t all that
    exciting either, she works at an old folks home while this colleague
    makes passes at her and offers to take her shift. Behold: The tragedy of
    a single white female. It’s when Sam really starts acting up that
    Amelia takes him to the hospital where drugs are prescribed to him.
    These sedatives could cause hallucinations, which is why Amelia still
    denies the Babadook’s existence despite Sam relentlessly bringing him up.

    We just couldn’t buy how she didn’t see his utterly compulsive nature
    as a serious diagnosable psychological problem and just have the damn
    kid talked to. Like woah, she’s already acknowledged the fact that he’s
    not normal, why not just fucking act upon it, woman?

    At this point we were rolling out eyes. It’s been like an hour and this Babadook is still hiding in the damn shadows. Nicole, (my friend beside me) fell asleep at this point, while four of us fought to stay awake (on a wednesday afternoon after school we saw it)

    *SPOILING THE ENDING NOW* – I just want to know what the reviewer or anyone else on this website thinks of my take….

    So Amelia gets possessed by this Babadook and Sam whips out his
    crossbow, stabs her in the leg with a kitchen knife, and shoots her ass.
    They eventually end up in the basement (because, horror!) and Sam
    whacks her possessed ass cold and ties her down. It doesn’t actually
    show him doing it but it’s so meticulous you’d think this seven year old
    had military training. Possessed Amelia wakes up and tries to strangle
    Sam but is somehow able to use her motherly awesomeness to fight this
    Babadook fucker off and randomly cough out blood. The unseen Babadook
    then drags Sam up into the upstairs bedroom using it’s supernatural
    unexplained awesomeness and Amelia chases Sam up the stairs.

    Let me repeat that so it’s perfectly clear: Amelia, a frail
    middle-aged mother who was just shot with darts, stabbed in the leg,
    tripped down the stairs in the basement and, knocked out cold literally
    runs up the stairs. Woah, super bitch all of as sudden.

    No joke, all of as sudden, she really does turn into a
    super-bitch with powers. As the room darkens, and the Babadook (created
    with awful CGI) draws closer to Amelia and Sam, the room starts shaking
    n’ breaking and Amelia yells “You’re trespassing in my house!” The
    Babadook suddenly retracts it’s grip on Sam and falls to the floor. As
    Amelia walks closer to the Babadook, it gets all bright and shit flees
    into the basement where all Amelia’s deceased husband’s belongings are.

    Here’s the part that I REALLY do NOT buy:

    Amelia and Sam are seen, a few days after collecting worms in the
    garden. Amelia takes the worms into the dark basement and sets them
    down. Implying that the Babadook dook dook is now their personal bitch.
    The fuck!?

    There are some films that are absolute garbage and, there are
    some films that make you feel like absolute garbage for seeing them,
    this one’s the latter – in addition to being one of the most
    excruciating films I’ve had to sit through all year.

    I read the review above, and I understand where the reviewer is coming from (I guess they relates to Amelia cause they have lonliness and sexual frustration blah blah) But thats what I thought and I’d like to know the reviewer thinks of my take, should she respond..

  • Deleted long rambling comment that was merely an entire review reposted from elsewhere on the Web. Don’t do that. I am on to you.

  • Arianna M

    Not copied from anywhere, it was supposed to be a one paragraph comment but I ended up getting so into it that I typed it out on word first to edit stuff out…

    Still on to me?

  • RogerBW

    I can’t help but remember why Jaws worked: because there was no money for a convincing mechanical shark, so it had to be kept off-screen.

    Every so often a film-maker rediscovers the power of suggestion. And sometimes is able to carry it off. Hurrah!

  • Beowulf

    Same thing with THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS and ALIEN. Once you see the monster s/he is never quite as scary as brief glimpses.

  • I’m excited to see this movie,as horror movies mostly suck nowadays. I wish it wasn’t so far away, though. They’re missing the October horror movie cash window, here in America. Although, it might have gotten lost in the deluge of junk coming out, so I might understand why they are holding it back a month.

  • Yes. I Googled some phrases from your comment and found the bulk of what you pasted here elsewhere.

    You have a *brief* comment or question? Go for it.

  • It’s going to get a *tiny* release in the US, and a simultaneous VOD release. Most people in the US will not be able to see it on a big screen, which is a real shame. But, you know, it’s “foreign,” and isn’t part of a franchise, so they don’t know how to market it.

  • Arianna M

    You probably came across my blog then, therefore it isn’t plagiarism (unless stealing my own review counts as so…you may contact the blogger/s google+ account, It will be me responding to you, should you feel the need)

    Hopefully we haven’t gotten off on the wrong foot, either way;

    I just wanted to know your thoughts on the ending. *SPOILERS* you didn’t find it ridiculous that the Babadook was terrorizing them, taking the shape of her husband (I was temporarily under the impression that it *was* her husband, but them again..) and all of as sudden residing in their basement? And this all-so-powerful Babadook getting beaten by a kid who tied knots and crafted contraptions as if he’s been trained in the military? The whole film just seemed so wrong to me. Did you also notice this, or was it *not* an issue for you?

  • Danielm80

    For what it’s worth, MaryAnn wasn’t accusing you of plagiarism. She just prefers comments that are part of a conversation, rather than reviews, which tend to be self-contained monologues (and kind of lengthy). Your most recent comment, on the other hand, makes me eager to see the movie, so I can continue the conversation.

  • Arianna M

    I personally hated the film and don’t recommend it but, for your enjoyment, please don’t read past the spoilers.. the film’s ending is so absurd that you might actually like it, which is a good thing, since you’ll be getting your money’s worth. I, however regret paying full admission to see it (on a school day nonetheless!)

  • Oh, man. My wife loves horror movies, too, and we both want to go. We’re close to Chicago, so we should be able to find a theater showing it.

  • I said nothing about plagiarism. There’s simply no reason for anyone to come to my site to post their own feature-length essay reviews of a movie. (I’ve deleted comments like that before.)

    SPOILERS

    As for the ending: Did I notice it? Of course I did. I found it extremely powerful and meaningful. You seem to have misread the film entirely. The Babadook *is* a manifestation of the grief and loss of the mother and child. The movie is about them coming to terms with the (figurative) ghost of the husband/father. The Babadook in the basement is a representation of how they have tamed — rather than banished — the memory of him.

    You may be taking the film far too literally. The Babadook is not Jason or Michael Myers or any of the boogeymen of horror movies who are intended to be literally real (within the context of the story). This movie is far more subtle and ambiguous, far more fantastical rather than supernatural.

  • The ending is not absurd, but perfectly in keeping with everything the movie is about.

    You sound very young. I wonder: Have you lost anyone close to you? Perhaps that’s required to appreciate what’s going on in the film.

  • Arianna M is Cupcakes/Rianna Esquivas. She almost had me fooled this time. Please do not engage.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    oh ffs…

  • Danielm80

    I don’t know what to say at this point except:

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  • That’s not really necessary. And let’s not clutter up this comments thread any more.

  • Martha P Nochimson

    Glad to see a review of this movie, and one that is so engaging. Must throw into the pot that Essie Davis is also the star of an Australian television series called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries that is the polar opposite of Babadook, a delicious confection about a “lady detective” in 1920’s Melbourne. Miss Fisher has the most exciting wardrobe the world has ever seen, bears within her soul the scars from her tour as a battlefield nurse in World War I, dedicates herself to being the woman she can be, and has a lot of unresolved sexual tension with equally wounded Detective Jack Robinson–with whom she trades witty double entendres. Essie is really an actress with range.

  • I’ll have to see if I can find that series. Sounds great!

  • Martha P Nochimson

    MaryAnn, with your exuberance for things film, and stories about women, you need to catch this. They are now filming season 3, but you can stream seasons 1 and 2 on Acorn.com. They give you a 30 day free trial, which would do it. But I stayed, because I like their offerings, and because it costs only 4.99 a month. You can also get disks on Netflix, though I’m not sure if they have season 2 yet. I know they’re going to get it. The MFMM community on Facebook is one of the liveliest and most insightful I have ever seen. As you can tell, it’s not that I really like this show………:-)

  • Bluejay

    Sounds very interesting. Season 1 is streaming on Netflix, at least in the US. Thanks for the tip. :-)

  • bronxbee

    I love the Miss Fisher mysteries, been watching them on PBS here.

  • honeycat155

    thanks for spoiling

  • Straight2Video

    Thats what I took away as well. The only thing that I didn’t understand was what was up with the worms?

  • That’s why I insist that commenters use spoiler warnings… and there was one in the comment you’re replying to. Please heed spoiler warnings if you don’t want to be spoiled.

  • SPOILERS

    There are probably lots of interpretations for the worms. Memories that feed emotions like love? Vice versa? The mother and child don’t want to entirely kill the Babadook — they just want it under control and not something that overwhelms their lives — so it must be sustained somehow?

  • Itsonlykinkythefirsttime

    When is the vibrator scene? Beginning or middle? I want to see it with my teen age son but fast forward.

  • The scene is not graphic or explicit… far less so than any scene of male masturbation I’ve ever seen on film. Why don’t you want your son to know that women are sexual beings just like men are?

  • sami

    are you stupid ?

  • sami

    wow , am shocked how depressing and selfish you are , you clearly don’t understand how the world works and how god has created us , men are the superior humans , the stronger humans , women on the other hand are the softer , more caring , smarter humans. but suggesting a mother to watch a vibrator scene with her young son to understand feminism is insane , you have a kickstarter campaign against men .. clearly you have something wrong in your head , you are not accepting gods creation .. I really suggest you go see a psychiatrist , if that doesn’t work , perhaps you should go see a priest. I am really shocked your a film critic with such shallow and small closed brain that you have.

  • bronxbee

    i suggest you go to another film criticism site.

  • #HastaggingThad1234

    *SPOILERS*
    Bruce Willis was a ghost at the end of Six Sense #saaaaywhhaaaaat?

  • sami

    nice to see my comments removed , so your not just a pathetic shallow selfish closed minded person that doesnt understand gods creation , your also a dictator.

    your activities and topics clearly indicate that you were raped as a little girl , this is why you are fueled with so much hate at men.

  • XXX

    o ya great idea. let’s watch a porno with your teenagers instead, so they get a better idea about things. lmao

  • So you’re suggesting that a scene that implies that a woman is masturbating under the covers is pornography?

    Do you apply to the same standard to scenes in which boys and men masturbate in mainstream films? How about scenes in which a woman’s head is bouncing up and down in a man’s lap?

    Please, do enlighten us as to what about this film qualifies as pornography.

    I’m assuming you’ve seen the film. Have you seen the film?

  • nambi

    Maybe because as a parent they DON’T want to watch that with their son. Parent can make their own decisions, why do they need to “enlighten” you, or your understanding.

  • LaSargenta

    It’s part of the movie. Fast forwarding over one part of the movie is ridiculous. They shouldn’t show the movie at all if they’re not showing the whole thing. That would be the sensible parenting thing to do.

  • This movie is entirely about women’s needs and desires. A child not able to deal with that is too young to see the film.

  • Tonio Kruger

    People tend to treat horror movies like cartoons and they often assume that all modern-day horror movies are like the relatively mild Universal horror movies they watched on late-night TV when they were growing up. Moreover, any attempt to suggest that a film like Saw or the original Dawn of the Dead isn’t proper viewing material for a little child is usually met with the inevitable response: “Why don’t you mind your own business?”

    Ironically, the growth of the home video and DVD market has made it even more possible to expose young children to such horror films. But that’s a subject for a different day.

  • ElisA

    I think the dead dad/husband had messed and unleashed a magic demon. The Babadook, had been around for centuries before, but since the husband had messed around with magic it helped him do his performances when he was alive.
    After the husband died, his magic and demon friend/ Babadook was left in the basement. And the only way the Babadook didn’t want to get forgotten was when the boy found the book his dad left for him on his book shelf in his bedroom.
    I think this basically explains how the Babadook was introduced to the boys bedroom and started wanting attention and liked the affection And Memories FROM Both The boy and mom.
    Another thing I think is that the Babadook was first taken advantage of its powers and this is why it only knew to get people’s attention by with a scare.
    In the end the mom yes was feeding the Babadook worms.
    Also the only thing that was making the Babadook happy was helping the boy with his magic ad he had done with his dad, and getting the love from the boys mom.

  • I think the dead dad/husband had messed and unleashed a magic demon.

    I don’t recall anything in the film to support such a theory. Did you see something?

  • ElisA

    If you watch the short horror film the mother watched by herself one lonely night in the chair….it shows a short brief as how the Babadook came to be and you can intake that short film as however…but my understanding is that the Babadook was trying to show the mother that it was a demon used in magic for centuries and it might have been abused for only it’s powers in magic tricks (like the circus) and never given any credit. So then it liked to scare people to get the attention and, (only then the Babadook saw that people are selfish and lonely and) tried bonding with the boy and mother who was also lonely and wanting attention & Love.

  • ElisA

    Maybe he doesn’t want to make it out as a laughing matter with his son. And fast forwarding in my perspective (from a women’s point of view), is only showing dignity for that scene in the movie.

  • I’ll have to watch the film again. I don’t recall getting any hint that the Babadook existed in any way outside of this house and this little family.

  • It’s not a laughing matter. You think denying the realities of women’s lives is dignified?

  • Richard

    As a middle aged Australian male I have to say there is very little Australian television I can even sit through, let alone enjoy. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the rare exception, even though series 3 is rather more formulaic than the first two seasons.

    There are not too many series being made anywhere in the world in which the lead character is female, intelligent, strong and stylish. Essie Davis manages to combine all these attributes without ever seeming contrived. All the supporting roles are well cast too, especially Nathan Page as Detective Jack Robinson.

  • Oracle Mun

    I think you’d love it, too, MaryAnn. Miss Fisher is an incredible character, and just about every episode passes the Bechdel Test. Essie Davis is delightful in the role.

  • The Babadook

    I am the Babadook. I say this a laughing matter
    Dook! Dook! Dook!

  • The Babadook

    I exist, I am the Babadook
    Dook! Dook! Dook!

  • The Babadook

    I am on to you MaryAnn Johnason. I am the Babadook
    Dook! Dook! Dook!

  • Noëlle Noir

    If the child is not old enough to see a woman put a vibrator under the covers, they’re not old enough to watch this film.

  • Itsonlykinkythefirsttime

    Thank you.

  • Priscilla

    Sounds kind of like a rip-off of the X-Files.

  • adder2021

    I agree with everything you said, until that last sentence where you basically turned this movie into a “win” for the feminist movement

  • Jin Nat

    i loved every scene of it.. how the mother faces the society, how she reaches her boiling point.. how she had to face the reality that her husband is dead and not coming back, how she realizes that her son needs more than what she is doing… her son by the way excellent actor.. i could easily understand why other kids didnt liked him. as they said in the movie he was usually outspoken about everything. but he was not stupid or had any mental problem.. he just needed his mother. and he knew that his mother is sinking deep in her derpression. that is why he kept saying he would save her….. excellent movie :) if any one can suggest more movies like this please leave the title in reply :)

  • Why/ What’s wrong with the last sentence? In what way is it untrue?

  • MTG

    I thought this movie was terrific and very scary. The last great scary movie I’ve seen was “Insidious” and I thought this movie reminded me a lot of that. An absolute must see for horror fans. Thanks for the review, it propelled me to watch the film.

  • Silvia

    Here is my take on the movie. I thought it was brilliant, it shows what pain, loss and hardships of life can do to us, we all have our monsters within, and if they are not taken care of, they will emerge causing an avalanche of bigger and scarier problems, causing us to hurt not only ourselves but those around us. That is where the babadook came in. The ending of the movie shows that we can never get rid of those monster, the pain, the memories, there is always a scar or two left behind to remind us, and if we don´t take care of, or feed it, if you will, they will become infected and come back bigger and stronger. That is how I took it.

  • Danielm80

    I don’t always agree with Anthony Lane, but I liked the (slightly hyperbolic) opening of his review:

    Let a law be passed, requiring all horror films to be made by female directors. It would curb so many antiquated tropes: the use of young women, say, underdressed or not dressed at all, who are barely fleshed out as characters before that flesh is coveted, wounded, or worse. Beyond that, the law would restore horror to its rightful place as a chamber of secrets, ripe for emotional inquisition.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/01/keeping-secrets-2

  • RogerBW

    Except that films like Bridesmaids and The Heat show us that female writers and directors can play up all the old clichés just as well as men can.

  • I think that’s going a bit far. And it’s unfair to suggest that men cannot tell stories with interesting female characters. Of course they can.

  • Danielm80

    It’s going more than a bit far, but as a tongue-in-cheek comment, it does a good job pointing out some serious problems with the horror genre, and with movies in general.

  • Richard W. Dickinson

    This is not about the supernatural. It is about a mental breakdown. She was in a hallucinogenic state. ,caused by depression and other forms of mental illness. Every thing that she experienced were hallucinations. The director is brilliant. The cinematography is amazing. And in the end one could see she was still suffering from psychosis

  • Danielm80

    One of the things I love about the movie is that it’s open to lots of different interpretations, including yours.

  • Richard W. Dickinson

    I agree.

  • amanohyo

    I’m lucky enough to live close to a theater playing this, and in typical INTP fashion, I shall now relate the experience to my personal history in an attempt to explain why it completely freaked me out.

    When I was a small child, about the age of Samuel in the movie, my father and I lived in a single bedroom apartment in San Antonio. The lighting was poor, and if you lay on the bed, you could look out through the door, down the hallway and see the edge of the refrigerator in the kitchen. We tried to keep it clean, but large roaches (I’m talking an inch and a half long, yeah, and by the way, they can also fly) would often come in through holes in the walls from the surrounding apartments.

    I had a recurring nightmare in which I would be lying in bed, and I would look down the hallway to see a black clawed hand emerge from behind it and beckon me to come closer. I never saw the creature itself, only the hand protruding from behind the fridge, and I never had the courage to take it up on its offer and venture out from beneath the covers.

    “Okay, I get it now,” you might be thinking. But wait, there’s more. During this time, my father and mother had separated, and my father had won custody and taken me from Korea to the states, leaving my mother very distraught and alone in Seoul. One night when I was around four years old, I was taking a nap at my daycare in Texas when I was awakened in the dark by my mother grabbing me and trying to pull me away. She had flown to Texas from Korea without telling my father, and was essentially trying to kidnap me. She was unsuccessful, but I always remembered the sight of my mom, wild-eyed and disheveled, appearing from the darkness, grasping at me with her long nails.

    After that biographical infodump, I hope you can understand why this movie completely unhinged me. Keep in mind, I watched a matinee showing in a packed theater, and was so disturbed that I walked to another theater and watched Wild, The Imitation Game, and Birdman, and I was STILL on edge when I got home and went to bed. To say this movie hit close to home would be an gross understatement. This movie is a concentrated dose of my childhood nightmares.

    It got so bad near the middle, that I had to physically construct the fourth wall and start imagining how certain shots were set up to calm myself down. I’ve never voluntarily withdrawn my attention from a movie before, this was bad.

    SPOILER

    She may be a troll, but I agree with Arianna M, that the end of the movie undercuts a lot of the horror and tension. Not the worms bit, that’s a nice ambiguous touch that illustrates the fact that they will have to find a way to live with their loss, as MA says (I like ElisA’s interpretation too). No, the part that I didn’t like was the kid using his inventions to drive the Dook out of the Mom. It felt too much like Home Alone — it would have been much more frightening to me if the kid had tried to use his weapons and they had been completely ineffective.

    END SPOILER

    Otherwise, if the mission of the movie was to portray the horror of loss in a way that made me uneasy… ummm, mission accomplished and then some. I’m ashamed it admit it, but I actually slept with the blanket over my head for the first time in over twenty years. Nicely done, Jennifer Kent and co.

  • amanohyo

    Update: I have officially graduated to the stage of fear in which I can sleep without a blanket over my head, but still feel it is safest to place a pillow over my eyes, because for some strange reason homicidal supernatural monsters cannot attack you if you can’t see them. I think I’m going to be okay.

    The Babadook “creature” is more terrifying because of its vagueness and ambiguity. You can never specifically nail down what it is, so it always feels as though it could be present — it’s very easy for an active imagination in an empty house at night to conjure up scenarios involving a Dook-like presence.

    Did I mention that I often sleep walk and sometimes wake up standing in an empty room speaking gibberish (this freaked out one of my college roommates so much, he started getting nightmares about me). Objects in my house sometimes show up in odd places too — I once found a thawed bag of frozen peas in a random shelf drawer. I suppose I moved them in my sleep.

    Yeah, I should probably stop watching this kind of movie.

  • cargirl33

    I do think the movie is open to many explanations of our minds but did anyone notice the part where she said she used to write stories and books? Could the mother have written the book herself? The worms to me were “feeding our fears” because if you noticed toward the end the “creature” had a beak which could be a bird (hence eating worms) and it also had a large wingspan?????

  • amanohyo

    I did consider that she might have written (and rewritten) the book herself which is incredibly creepy. However, I didn’t notice the bird imagery — it does tie in nicely with the worms. Nice catch. It’s always cool to watch a movie that has so many interesting, valid interpretations.

    Also, it took a week, but I am now totally not scared. Nope, I can walk around in my dark, empty, shadow-filled house and be completely at ease. Yup… imaginary weird croaking voices don’t phase me at all… okay, that’s a lie, but I have found it helps a lot to sing a ridiculous song. Also bring an extra blanket — that second blanket is crucial backup protection. You never know when the first one might slip off and expose a juicy calf or toe.

  • LaSargenta

    Didnt feel personal at all, then.

    O_o

    It is amazing when we are confronted by some piece of art that hits us in some place we forgot about or that we didn’t know we had. Years ago, I got that from Autumn Sonata. Yup, the Bergman film. That was when I began to be conscious that my relationship with my mother was really bad. I had to leave the theater and go to the restroom to be sick. Nope, not food poisoning.

  • Her writing the book is a great interpretation, and ties in beautifully with the notion that everything that happens is a manifestation of her subconscious emotional turmoil.

  • ElCoronel

    Under the covers, thanks for that insight. Our daughter is completely mature enough to watch this movie but she’s invited some friends over and we were concerned.

  • KateAf

    She might not be fond of her own creation – “babadook” is an anagram for “a bad book.”

  • The Babadook

    MaryAnn, you can not deny The Babadook.

    Dook Dook Dook!

  • The Babadook

    MaryAnn, you can not deny The Babadook.

    Dook Dook Dook!!

  • The Babadook

    Are you denying the existence of the Babadook?

    Dook Dook Dook!

  • The Babadook

    I am on to YOU MaryAnn

    Dook Dook Dook

  • James Kelly

    Self-loathing male feminists who throw their own gender under the bus are funny

  • James Kelly

    This film looks very scary in a creepy, folk tale kind of way, although the kid seems so incredibly annoying that I probably wouldn’t be able to sit through the whole thing.

  • James Kelly

    Ugh. Grow up and get a life.

  • RandomGuy

    It just appears to shift the focus away from her being a capable and talented writer/director and towards that it’s important that she is a woman.

    We should be able to appreciate her work without giving her an extra cookie for being a woman (that would be insinuating it is some kind of handicap), just as many people would object to giving an extra cookie to a man for simply being a man.

  • But being a woman *is* a handicap in our world.

  • Bluejay

    For as long as we live in a culture where most stories are about men and written by men, and where men are considered the default (and therefore don’t need extra cookies), we need to acknowledge the times when this ISN’T the case, as steps in the right direction towards diversity and fair representation.

    Of the top-grossing 250 films of 2014, women wrote only 11% and directed only 7%. And women had lead roles in only 15% of the top films of 2013. Considering that women are half the population and more than half of moviegoers, that’s a pretty big chunk of the audience that’s being under-served and underrepresented.

    You can celebrate someone for their talent as well as celebrate when they’re breaking boundaries of gender, race, etc. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

  • janine vine

    So glad I found this review…I was completely stumped…perplexed by the ending. I think it could have maybe been handled a bit better but that’s because I’m so used to American films spoon feeding meanings, I forgot about subtext!

  • Holly

    I personally found this movie very confusing and too busy to follow sometimes. A lot started to make sense towards the end, as all “twist” movies do. I still found it lacked a proper ending. I get that you ***SPOILERS*** “can’t get rid of the Babadook” but it just didn’t seem realistic to keep something like that in your basement as a pet. The theory you have is clever but I still don’t like the fact that it’s basically just a story about loss masked by some demon. If they wanted a drama they should’ve made a drama and if they wanted a horror flick they should’ve made a horror flick. I did have a few jump scares, which is always nice, but as I say as a whole it was just too overloaded with unsaid things and nonsensical plot points. Also before you ask, I have lost people in my life, five to be exact, so I understand the meaning behind the loss and how much it affects a family.

  • So a horror story can never also be a drama, or a drama also a horror story?

    it just didn’t seem realistic to keep something like that in your basement as a pet.

    Maybe they didn’t have a choice. You *can’t* get rid of the Babadook, the movie keeps telling us. Perhaps the best you can do is tame it.

  • dwa4

    spoilers
    As a person who has gone through losing a parent prematurely and a primary care physician for 20 years I watched this movie last night at a most interesting time.

    After watching this movie movie last night I can say that I had “the babadook discussion” with 5 different people in yesterday’s work day alone. 2 men and 3 women at various points along the continuum this movie portrays and the majority of the continuum that this movie fails to portray. ..middle age 2 mos out from sudden death of wife, middle age coming up on 1 year anniversary of suicide of son, 2 middle age going through seperation/divorce (which can be qually as traumatizing as death) and older multiple years out from death of spouse and essentially “recovered”
    While the film does an outstanding job of capitlaizing on portraying what people sufferring from such traumatic grief go through in a sensational cinematic horror fashion, it completely fails to portray in anything but the most superficial way the most meaningful, redemptive and powerful portion of what people actually go through. The isolation, loss of interaction and social function, inability to work and pursue hobbies and even rare but possible psychotic features that people suffer from due to tthe haunting of the loss are amazingly and emotionally told / acted.
    What fails to be told here, as is usually told in any good story or film, is the change, movement, relationships, redemption and growth that the characters/people go through when confronted with these awful scenarios. While there are very superficial elements of this in the co worker and caring neighbor who attempts to help, a not so caring friend and the relationship with her son, there are no real or lasting healthy interactions formed. She never interacts with a medical professional that shows anything more than a superficial effort at addressing grief and depression the way they are actually addressed. While she is ultimately able to keep the monster at bay through her own sheer anger and willpower the message of significant recovery, peace, interaction and growth that is the hope and actual outcome for many people….and one of the most powerful and moving things that I have the privilege to see people go through with others…is virtually completely absent here. This could have been amazingly portrayed by interspersing any of the surrounding compassionate characters in her delusions and encouters with babadook and her battle against it. This is what people recovering from grief have and the most powerful thing I have seen in people actually going through this story.
    Yesterday I got to hear a father who lost his son to suicide describe the hope and support he took from nothing more than a person who shared the reality and course their family went through from thier son’s depression and that he was not alone in this and the relationship that was formed from that experience to get him through difficult times. It was a chillingly good thing to hear…moreso that any of the chills this movie delivered.
    I would say that the most powerful part of this movie’s story is untold and for anyone that is going through grief and depression like this there is much more to experience than what is protrayed here

  • I don’t think the film intends to be a complete examination of grief and recovery in all its aspects. It’s dealing with just a slice of that experience.

  • dwa4

    the disappointing part is the lack of growth in the Amelia character….that, in the subject it chose to deal with, it left out the richest, most moving, important, inspiring and low hanging fruit part of the story. It’s like walking up to an apple tree and eating the leaves instead of the apple. In life, as in stories and film, the most meaningful thing we encounter is the change and growth that occurs in the characters/people…especially when that occurs in the midst of trials and one person’s effort to be a part of the other’s life and help them through it. How can you have the richest and most fertile and important part of the subject’s matter and not capitalize on it? Babadook is like watching When Harry Met Sally and having the movie end when they finish the cross country trek in the car. Amelia developed no healthy relationships and she showed no growth beyond focusing all her anger and virtually all her will on the babadook.
    Imagine if they had developed the relationship between Amelia and the frail and elderly woman neighbor with Parkinson’s (Mrs Roach?) into something more meaningful and supportive. And when Amelia is in her delusions, have the strength of Mrs. Roach’s support and friendship (a critical element to recovery from mood disorders and depression) be manifested by another fierce presence helping her…(something with a slight tremor perhaps)
    You see, rightly so to a significant extent, the value in not criticizing just the movie, but how it responsibly deals

  • T.Brunstein, Esq.

    Well i would like to take a sec to ackowledge how annoying that damn kid was the first half of the movie.. I was pulling for the bobbadook to come and get hin before that hideous screeching made me want to throttle him myself.

  • Yes, that the child is difficult and a trial for his mother is essential to the story.

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