“If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of…The Babadook.”
Through decades of film we’ve encountered some of the most terrifying monsters; The Thing, Alien, Jaws, Predator, and now: The Babadook.
As a fan of the seemingly-dead horror genre, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get round to watching Jennifer Kent’s spine-chilling story of The Babadook; a spiritual embodiment of repressed grief and childhood nightmares.
Kent’s revolutionary contribution to horror has finally come as a revival of a genre that has only brought us cheap jump-scares and unfulfilled suspense over recent years, with its refreshing spine-chilling tension and sinister tone. And the movie truly is terrifying, but not in a conventional sense. Take a look back at some of the horror movies over the past decade, and you’ll find an overabundance of cliches and tacky storylines. The Babadook, however, defies all these conventions, and instead, brings to life a terrifying story of a grief-struck mother and son, tormented with the death of a father and husband. Kent’s tale presents the everyday rituals of a child plagued by nightmares – a check in the cupboard and a check under the bed, and after witnessing this film, we will find ourselves checking every crevice of our bedrooms in search of the Babadook.
The film’s central scare, though, is the everyday. At some point in our lives we have all been struck by the death of a loved one, and Kent brings to our screens a tale of a mother and son trying to cope in a world where grief surrounds them at every moment of their lives. The film, itself, is extremely Freudian: as the monster is not physically alive, but lies in the subconscious of Amelia and Samuel; a monster that has been fabricated by the pair to reflect their constant bereavement. And what is so excellent about the film is that we get to see this sense of grief through both Amelia and Samuel’s eyes. In the first half of the movie, we are forced to sympathise with Amelia and her constant struggle to control her disobedient and troubled child. Yet, halfway through this perspective shifts and we are contrastingly encouraged to sympathise with Samuel, as Amelia’s struggle to cope intensifies and strengthens. These struggles that the pair encounter are the very elements that make up the Babadook. His fearfulness tailors around Amelia’s battle for control since the death of her husband, and Samuel’s inability to function without a male role model to look up to.
As for the ending,(yeah – SPOILER ALERT) it is a fact that the pair cannot escape the Babadook. What may annoy some is that there is no apparent closure to the movie, the same way in which we as human beings cannot forget the death of a loved one. We may be able to cope and adapt to this new lifestyle, but the memories we make are still cemented into our subconscious minds. You may think that my insight is far too complicated and unnecessary, and you have every right to think that, but for me this film is far more complicated than what is on the surface. And because of this, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is truly terrifying. And bloody good, too.
Published March 13th 2016.
– Corey Hughes.