Movie Review: "The Babadook"
Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is a young boy, but he is not exactly normal. He is haunted by having never known his father, and his mother Amelia (Essie Davis) never quite recovered from the death of her husband. Samuel is strange and does not get along with other kids. Having never gotten over losing her husband all of those years ago, Amelia has grown to (at times) resent her son, but she does her best to raise him anyway, but all of that changes when Samuel finds a new book on their bookshelf: The Babadook.
The Babadook is a scary children's bedtime story that tells of a dark and mysterious monster that stalks its victims in the night. "A rumbling sound then 3 sharp knocks. ba BA-ba DOOK! DOOK! DOOK! That's how you know that he's around. You'll see him if you look. Once you let him in, you cannot escape the Babadook." Amelia is shocked by the horrific theme of the book, but once she has read the book, they start to hear strange noises. They hear a rumbling, then 3 sharp knocks, and begin to suspect that the monster is more than just the subject of a children’s book.
The Pros & Cons
The Babadook (+4pts)
The Metaphor (+6pts)
Pro: The Babadook (+4pts)
I really enjoyed the entity known as the Babadook in this movie. While I thought its face looked bad, I thought the monster worked very well for the film. It was haunting, it got inside the characters' heads, and its voice was absolutely chilling. The way this thing spoke and screamed made it sound extremely powerful and extremely dangerous. While it sounded great and looked creepy, neither of these things were the best part about the Babadook.
This creature got in people's heads. It made them see things and it made them go insane.This movie was a psychological horror, and it emphasized that the true enemy is the enemy within. We did not see much of the Babadook, but we saw it getting in the heads of the main characters and we got to watch how they dealt with that. It was an effective, and captivating horror monster, but I would have liked to have seen a lot more of it throughout this story.
Con: Mom (-5pts)
Oh, I hated the characters in this film. First and foremost, the mother was incredibly unlikable. Sure, she was dealing with the depression of having lost her husband. It was several years after the fact, but it was definitely a traumatic experience for her. As a result, she had grown to resent her son. While she resented her son, she still went through the motions of caring for him, but she clearly hated her life.
I knew she was still suffering from a traumatic experience, but she really did not have a single redeeming quality about her. Her son had become a very annoying child, which was clearly a result of her inability to be an effective parent. Now, I realize that this was by design, as the filmmakers wanted to show how her depression had impacted both her life and her son's. However, the main character was just too annoying and too unlikable for me to be at all invested in that story. She was not a great parent and she was an annoyingly depressed main character. Was this an accurate depiction of depression? Sure, but it made for a main character that I could not get behind.
Pro: The Metaphor (+6pts)
I thought the metaphor in this film was very well done. The entire concept of he Babadook was a metaphor for depression. The rumbling represents dormant depression, the knocking represents depression boiling to the surface, the character "looking" and "letting it in" represents depression taking over someone's life. Then there's the "once you let him in, you can never escape the Babadook", but I do not think that needs much explanation.
The entire movie (from start to finish) can be analyzed and viewed as a metaphor for depression. This is probably most audiences' favorite part of this movie, and I enjoyed making these connections throughout the story. As badly as these characters were written, and as bad as I thought the overall plot was, the metaphor was very strong. I would have liked to have seen the filmmakers give this more focus, but I still really enjoyed this aspect of the movie.
Con: Son (-6pts)
I really hated the mother in this film, but she was incredibly delightful to watch when compared to the son. I do not know what happened. Maybe it was the writing, or the acting, or maybe some lunatic wanted this character to come across this way. The son was just unbelievably annoying in this movie. He was definitely supposed to annoy the mother and other character's to some extent, but it should not annoy the viewers of the movie to the point where they want to turn off the movie.
The constant yelling and whining, and on top of the terrible delivery of the character's dialogue, made this character extremely annoying to watch (especially in the beginning of the story). About halfway through the movie, the focus shifted away from the son and he definitely became less annoying, as we were only given small doses of the character. However, I definitely found the beginning of this movie to be a struggle to get through because of this character. If the filmmakers wanted this character to come across as annoying, they certainly succeeded, but I think they went far beyond their intended level of annoyance.
Pro: Insanity (+4pts)
The first half of this film did a great job of making the audience wonder if the Babadook was really haunting this mother and her son, or if it was all in their heads. Both characters read the book, so it would have made sense for both of them to fabricate the same entity in their minds. Additionally, we saw both characters reacting to the Babadook separately. At first, the son saw it and the mother did not. Then the mother saw it when the boy is not around.
This made the premise a lot more compelling for the audience, as it made me focus very closely on the Babadook whenever it was around. Constantly wondering and looking for clues, made the first half of this film very entertaining. The filmmakers did make a decision (as to whether or not the Babadook was real), and they made a point of revealing that in this story. Once this happened, the movie definitely felt more like a metaphor, but I thought it also lost one of its more intriguing elements, as the Babadook was no longer a mystery. Nonetheless, it made this movie a lot more interesting before the reveal.
Con: Boring (-5pts)
This movie was very slow. There were a ton of scenes of these characters eating, watching TV, picking out a book to read, and various other mundane things. As a viewer it can get boring when you have to watch characters do mundane, everyday things, especially if you do not like the characters doing them. Due to how irritating both of these characters were, these slow portions of the film were a real struggle to get through. I really liked the concept of this movie and I really enjoyed the metaphor for depression that was presented, but I got the impression that this was an interesting premise, but the filmmakers did not know how to write a story around it, so they just added a bunch of filler. There were some great and exciting moments in this movie, but they were strung together by boring filler and annoying characters.
Grade: C- (73pts)
I thought this film had a very interesting concept that centered around a fascinating metaphor. The Babadook was a mysterious creature straight from a children's book. It was also a masterfully executed metaphor for depression. The two main characters of this story had suffered a tremendous loss, and were both suffering from a somewhat dormant form of depression. The Babadook represented that depression, and through the course of this story, both characters were forced to confront their past.
This movie had great promise, and a fantastic metaphor. Unfortunately, there was not much horror, the main characters were annoying and almost intolerable, and the movie was boring through a lot of scenes. However, audiences will remember the Babadook, and what it represented, long after seeing the film. I think it will leave an impression on people, but I think the filmmakers’ execution left a lot to be desired. The metaphor was a powerful one, but if you watch the movie then I urge you not to set your expectations too high. Who knows? Maybe you will love it, but I did not have that experience.