Movie Review: "The Babadook"
Amelia (Essie Davis) is the mother of a young boy named Samuel (Noah Wiseman). When Amelia was going into labor with the boy, her husband got in a car accident on their way to the hospital. While her husband died in the accident, Amelia (along with her newborn child) survived. Several years later, Samuel is now a young boy but he is not exactly normal. He is haunted by having never known his father, and his mother never recovered from losing her husband. Other kids (and even their parents) do not like Samuel because he is strange, scares the other children and annoys their parents.
Samuel's poor behavior is a result of Amelia's bad parenting. 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. She takes him to school, feeds him, and reads him bedtime stories. This is their normal routine, 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 it's 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...
The Pros & Cons
The Babadook (+4pts)
The Metaphor (+6pts)
Pro: The Babadook (+4pts)
I really enjoyed The Babadook in this movie. While I thought it's face looked bad, I thought the monster worked very well for the film. It is haunting, it gets in your head, and it's voice was absolutely terrifying. The way this thing speaks and screams makes 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 gets in people's heads. It makes them see things and it makes them go insane. I actually woke up in the middle of the night after seeing this movie and I saw a tall shadowy figure standing next to my bed. So this thing definitely stuck with my subconscious, since it appeared to me in a dream. Though, who knows? Maybe it's real!
Anyway, this film is a psychological horror, and it emphasizes that the true enemy is the enemy within. We do not see much of The Babadook, but we see it getting in the heads of the main characters and we get to watch how they deal with that. It is a very interesting concept that, I believe was done effectively. My only complaint is that the film could have used a lot more of this.
Con: Mom (-5pts)
Oh I hated the characters in this film. First and foremost, the mother. This character is incredibly unlikable. Sure, she is dealing with the depression of having lost her husband. It is several years after the fact, but it was definitely a traumatic experience for her. As a result, she has grown to resent her son. While she resents her son, she still goes through the motions of caring for him, but she clearly hates her life.
That explains this character in a nutshell. I know she is still suffering from a traumatic experience, but she really does not have a redeeming quality about her. Her son has become a very annoying child, which is clearly a result of her inability to be an effective parent. Now, I realize that this was by design. The film wanted to show how her depression has impacted both her life and her son's life. However, the film does not attempt to get it's audience relating with this character. She is not a great parent and she is an annoyingly depressed main character. Was this an accurate depiction of depression? Yes, but this is a movie, and the character is not even remotely interesting or entertaining, so it did not work for me.
Pro: The Metaphor (+6pts)
I thought the metaphor in this film was very well done. The entire concept of The Babadook, is 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.
I thought the whole thing was very well done. I think the entire movie (start to finish) can be analyzed and viewed as a metaphor for depression. This is probably most audiences' favorite part of this film. As badly as these characters were written, and as bad as the plot was, the metaphor was very strong. It could have used a bit more focus, but I still enjoyed this film's look at depression.
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 so, unbelievably, annoying in this film. He is definitely supposed to annoy the mother and other character's in the film, but it should not annoy the film's viewers to this extent.
The constant yelling and whining, when coupled with terrible line delivery, was extremely annoying to watch (especially in the beginning of the film). About halfway through the film, the focus shifts away from the son and he definitely becomes less annoying, but the beginning of this film was a struggle to get through because of this character. If the filmmakers wanted this character to come across as annoying, they succeeded, but I think they went a little overboard.
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 make sense for both of them to fabricate the same entity in their minds. Additionally, we see both characters reacting to The Babadook separately. At first, the son sees it and the mother does not. Then the mother sees it when the boy is not around.
This makes the film a lot more compelling for the audience because they, naturally, are focusing very closely whenever The Babadook is around. Constantly wondering and looking for clues, made the first half of this film very entertaining. The film does make a decision (as to whether The Babadook is real or not) and focuses on that. Once this happens, the movie definitely feels more like a metaphor, but I thought the film lost one of it's more intriguing elements by no longer focusing on the mystery of The Babadook.
Con: Boring (-5pts)
This film is very slow. There are a ton of scenes of these characters eating, watching TV, picking out a book to read, etc. As a viewer this can get boring, if the characters are not relatable. 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, but I got the impression that this was a well thought out premise that was stretched out into a full-length film without proper development. There are great moments and elements to this film, but it was all connected by boring filler and annoying characters.
Grade: C- (73pts)
I thought this film had a very interesting concept and an impressively told metaphor. The Babadook is a mysterious creature straight from a children's book. It starts off subtle, but once it gets it's victim to acknowledge it, they can never escape The Babadook. This creature was creepy, terrifying, and the voice was absolutely chilling. It was also a masterfully executed metaphor for depression. The two main characters of this film have suffered a tremendous loss. The mother has lost her husband, and the son has grown up without a father. Both are suffering from a dormant form of depression, but that depression hits a peak during this film, and forces the mother to confront her past.
This was a powerful metaphor that I believe people (who suffer from depression) will be able to relate to. Unfortunately, the film is not much more than that. The two main characters are irritatingly annoying. The kid is constantly yelling or whining and the actor gives a bad performance (though he is a child so the fault really falls on the director/filmmakers). The mother is such an uncaring parent that she becomes unrelatable to the audience. The film then felt like a great concept that was stretched out into a full-length film. It was not properly elaborated, so what we get is long, boring scenes that focus on characters that viewers will hate.
This film had great promise, and a fantastic metaphor. There was not much horror, and the film was boring through a lot of scenes, but that will not stick with audiences after the fact. Audiences will remember The Babadook, and the metaphor, long after seeing the film. I think it will leave an impression on people, but I think this film's execution was weak. I can recommend seeing this movie, because I think the metaphor is powerful, but I urge viewers not to set their expectations too high. Who knows? Maybe you will love this film, I just did not have that experience.