I love Halloween, I love zombie stuff. But that is where my ability to handle scary movies/tv shows ends. I made the mistake of watching some of the Elm Street movies as a pre-teen and they scarred me for life. I mean I couldn’t even really handle the smoke monster in Lost. I have a good friend who loves horror movies and is always trying to get me to watch them with her. She made me watch one of the Saw movies, I think (I have tried to erase it from my brain). Anyway, I was visiting her in NYC and she “saved” a horror movie and made me watch it with her. This is my review of The Babadook (warning: some spoilers below).
OK, so I probably covered my eyes and/or ears for about 30% of this film, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss any of the major plot points. To get you started, let me tell you this – here is a quote from William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist:
“I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than The Babadook. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.”
The film starts out showing us a stressed out single mom in a creepy house with too many shadows and weird things, and a freaky son who is obsessed with a monster he thinks lives in the house. The son, Samuel, is 6 years old and he’s always building weapons to fight this imaginary bad guy and sneaking around in the basement, which she keeps locked and where he’s not supposed to go.
Samuel is kind of out of control and always causing problems for his mum at school, and with friends and family. He’s a sweet kid in a lot of ways, but you can see that he also freaks his mom out. We learn that his dad died in a car wreck on the way to the hospital for Amelia to deliver Samuel. I suppose this is meant to make us aware that Amelia resents Samuel on some level, or at least associates him with his father’s death. Samuel does weird things like take his homemade weapons to school, which gets him suspended or maybe expelled, and pushes his cousin out of a treehouse so she falls and breaks her nose (after telling her a monster is going to eat her mom’s insides). Every night Amelia reads a story to Samuel and has to check his wardrobe and under his bed for monsters.
One night at bedtime he brings her a book she doesn’t recognize, which has the creepy as hell Babadook character on the cover. It’s a pop-up book and at first it seems potentially harmless since she’s reading it in a sing-song-y children’s book voice (of course we know it’s not so I’m already freaked out and hiding my eyes at this point). As she continues it becomes apparent the book is creepy as hell, about how the Babadook will come in the house and then never leave and everyone will wish they were dead. She skims ahead, realizes it’s creeptastic, and shuts the book. The kid proceeds to freak the hell out asking “DOES THE BABADOOK HURT THE BOY? WHAT DOES THE BABADOOK DO MUM?” She tries to read him a happier book to calm him down while he sobs uncontrollably in her lap. Basically from this point all hell breaks loose.
Mum tries to destroy the book multiple times. The Babadook is, in fact, real and starts making sounds and then appearances. Samuel seems able to see him way before Amelia, at one point shrieking in their car “GET OUT! GET OUT OF HERE!” in a particularly disturbing/manic scene, and causing his mom to get in a car accident (he later refers to this as “when the Babadook made you crash the car”).
I’m not going to ruin the ending for you, but basically this movie terrified me, yet I have to admit it was pretty good. It was shot really well, great acting, overall very effective. There’s a lot of tension around the fact that Amelia is kind of scared of her son from the start, that she seems to find him difficult and hard to love, and the Babadook uses that to its advantage, trying to get her to harm Samuel. It’s kind of about a mother’s love and power to stand up for her family and home.
If you like horror films, this is a must see. If you don’t, you still might want to consider it, but be ready to cover your eyes, watch it in a well-lit room, and then make sure you have some way to feel safe afterwards. My friend has a dog that slept with me which made me feel OK enough to go to sleep. I figured she’d sense any babadooks before I would.
The Babadook is currently available for digital rental on Amazon, iTunes, and GooglePlay.