Films: The Babadook (2014)

The next film in my 31 Days of Scary Movies is “The Babadook.”


Again, spoilers.

The story: Almost seven years ago, Amelia lost her husband on the drive to the hospital to have her son, Samuel. Although Amelia believes she has moved on, she is still mourning Oscar, and doesn’t quite know how to be a mother to Samuel, especially when he starts waking her up every night because there’s a monster in his closet. Even more so when the monster gives them a book about what he’s going to do to them.

Y’all…I loved this movie. I hadn’t seen it before today and only knew vaguely what to expect–that there’s a creature in a top hot and it’s haunting a family–and oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Oddly enough, too, it’s got a few things in common with “The Witch”: it’s atmospheric like crazy and part of what causes the madness-cum-haunting is isolation and grief, and there isn’t much backstory about what the Babadook is and why it chose this family. There are two scenes, however, that suggest the Babadook has something to do with Amelia’s dead husband, which may also explain why the ending works as well as it does.

(“True” ghost stories sometimes talk about this: a ghost or other entity will pretend to be someone you love, whether they’re alive or dead, as part of their desire to scare you. This movie also reminded me of stories of shadow people, though they tend not to be as physical as the Babadook. Though I think basically this is a boogeyman story rather than a ghost or other entity.)

Also, Noah Wiseman, “Samuel,” did an incredible job with all the difficult things he was called upon to do. (I truly hope there was a stand-in for the worst of them and some counseling after those scenes were filmed.) Samuel is a difficult child, but also a sweet one, and I saw a few things abut him that reminded me of the five-year-old in my life.

Is it scary? Oh hell yes. And not just jump scares, either. See, in quite a few plot structures there’s a plot point called the Darkest Moment, when it seems like everything has gone wrong and there’s no way the hero can win. And sometimes the hero doesn’t win, and that’s when you’re writing a tragedy. “The Babadook” is not a tragedy, but its darkest moment is very, very dark.

But in the end, while the family has won back their love for each other and some peace in their house, they haven’t exactly defeated the Babadook. Like was foreshadowed in the Babadook’s book, they’ve sort of made him their friend. That’s an ending you never see, and why I will watch this movie again next Halloween.

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