The Babadook (2014) Review: Family Drama
“You can’t get rid of… The Babadook.”
Synopsis: A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
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Ludwig von Stroodle:
This one isn’t for everyone. The Babadook deals primarily with the psychological trauma of a widow (Essie Davis) left to raise her disturbed son on her own. Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is downright awful; I’m no mental health professional (and I won’t even play one on the internet), but there’s definitely something going on with him. The monster aspect of the movie is largely a physical manifestation of Amelia’s repressed feelings. What we’re watching is her transition from being merely sad, isolated, and stressed beyond measure to outright resentment and hate for her son. People always act like that never happens; there’s parental platitudes about how it’s different when it’s your kid, or you’d do anything for them, or how even though you never got to achieve any of your dreams it’s all okay because your kids make it worth it. Admitting negative feelings toward your child is pretty much anathema, so it’s fascinating to see it being addressed and watching the mental breakdown that ensues as Amelia fails to cope with those emotions.
The monster itself is fairly creepy; they make good use of noises and shadows and mostly avoid showing it head on, which I always appreciate. The Babadook inhabits a weird place where it’s not quite one of those “it’s all in their head” movies, because the monster definitely seems to exist in the physical word, but it’s also very much a metaphor and there’s no explanation for why it exists. People who like things to make sense might take umbrage at that, but I’m okay with viewing it as a surreal depiction of what Amelia’s situation feels like, rather than objective reality.
The most heartbreaking part of the story is that Samuel is somewhat aware of what’s really happening. Much of his odd behavior early on can be taken as misguided attempts to protect his mother or desperate attempts to make her happy. He’s unable to grasp the complexity of her situation, but knows something is causing her to hate him (“DON’T LET IT IN!”). It’s weird to feel sympathetic to a character who could have been a birth control advertisement early on in the film, but literally the only person he has in the world wishes he was dead. And he knows it.
Ludwig von Stroodle’s Rating: A-
My review can be summed up by an Unpopular Opinion Puffin: I didn’t like The Babadook.
Don’t get me wrong; it was a great quality movie with some excellent acting. But to me it felt much more like a drama film than a horror flick. It’s easy to empathize with Amelia’s troubles and understand her anger, but the flip side of her very mundane problems was that the monster seemed superfluous to the story.
The Babadook? Meh. A single mother on the verge of a breakdown? Now that’s scary.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: C+
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