The Babadook: A Real-Life Horror Film 

I’m not going to lie: I love horror movies. Not horror movies that exploit human pain for some kind of sick gratification of the audience, but horror movies that utilize the full effects of cinematography and/or focus on truth and the search for light in darkness. To quote Stephen King in the foreword of his nonfiction, Danse Macabre (my favorite):
 “None of us have quite the same fear receptors. What I’m trying to say-  and to show by example- is that cinematic horror is a potent art form, and there’s a lot more going on under the surface than immediately meets the eye. Therein lies its many dark pleasures. And the next time your parents or your significant other ask you why you want to go and see that crap, tell them this: Stephen King sent me. He told me to look for the good ones, because they’re the ones that speak to what’s good in the human heart. And, of course, to what isn’t. Because those are the things you have to look out for.” 
Horror movies shouldn’t be about making you gag or feel sick to your stomach as you watch humans get tortured or killed, and there are plenty of movies out there like that. Horror should speak truths about goodness and light as much as pain and fear. Horror is also the only genre (give or take) that can use all the elements of cinematography to its complete benefit. Think about that. What other genre can you use lighting, music, camera angle, makeup, and dialogue so much? Unfortunately, in this day in age, we have such good cinematic effects that we sometimes focus so much on that, that there’s no story. This is why Indie or festival horror movies are usually the best. And within all of that, we find The Babadook. 
What I love even more than a thought-provoking, beautifully filmed, Festival horror movie, is a thought-provoking, beautifully filmed, Festival horror movie that was written and directed by a woman. Women really aren’t common in the world of Horror, unless they’re being exploited in cheap films that keep men in the movie theater. Having a woman write AND direct a horror movie is simply amazing, especially one that got a rating of 98% from Rotten Tomatoes. Wow. 
Allow me to introduce the concept of the film. The story revolves around single mother, Amelia, who is struggling to work and keep her estranged six-year-old son, Samuel, in school. Amelia was widowed by a car accident on her way to deliver Sam. Sam suffers from nightmares about the boogyman, that Amelia doesn’t give a thought to until Sam finds a terrifyingly macabre book, Mister Babadook, and their house begins to seem as if it’s being haunted. On top of that, Sam has been having worse nightmares and is kicked out of school for bringing a weapon (that he originally made to fight the Babadook) to school. Nights get longer and scarier for Amelia, who is kept up by Sam’s nightmares and the feeling that she is being watched. Eventually, the two of them come face to face with the Babadook, who enters Amelia and messes with her mind, until they get it out of her and fight it off. (Spoiler alert) The story ends with them keeping the Babadook in their basement, with all of Sam’s father’s things. 
But what does this all mean? 
Well, let’s look at the imagery and symbolism first of all. Amelia and Sam live in a dreary house that has a basement full of Sam’s father’s things that Amelia has put out of mind (out of sight, out of mind). At the beginning of the movie, Amelia finds her son in the basement, playing around with a magic kit. She tells him not to look through her late husband’s things, and then gives herself a fright when she sees his coat, pants, shoes, and violin against the wall. This encounter down in the basement sets the scene for the rest of the movie because it’s the first link we have to the relationship between the Babadook and Sam’s father. Later in the movie, we see a similar scene, in which the Babadook is up against the wall in the police office, similar to Sam’s father’s clothes that are pinned up against the wall in the basement. 
Another instance of imagery and symbolism is when cockroaches are shown crawling out from a hole in the wall behind the fridge. Amelia panics and cleans it up, but when Child Services shows up, she realizes that there was never a hole in the first place. This represents the infestation of darkness that has overshadowed the house due to Amelia’s sadness revolving around her husband’s death. Others can’t see it, but to Amelia, it’s very, very real. 
During the film, the Babadook “possesses” Amelia’s body and makes her have the urge to kill her dog, son, and eventually, herself. This possession by the Babadook is symbolic for the possession of sadness, anger, and denial that has built up in Amelia in the seven years since her husband’s death. She takes it out first on the dog, who could be considered a replacement for her husband since his death (there have been many cases in which someone buys a pet to compensate for a loved one in their life who died). Then, she tries to take it out on her son, who reminds her of her husbands death every day (especially considering the story takes place around the time of Sam’s birthday, which is also her husband’s death-day). After that, the Babadook prophecies in its book that Amelia will kill herself, which is (symbolically) in a last attempt to rid herself of the sadness that has taken ahold of her. In addition, there are times while Amelia is possessed when she snaps out of it. Why? Because someone shows love to her. First, it’s her next-door neighbor, Grace. Then, it’s her son, who strokes her face as she tries to strangle him. If the Babadook is symbolic for sadness and depression, this film is trying to show that love outweighs darkness. 
Finally, at the end of the movie, it shows Amelia and Sam living a normal life. However, there is a twist ending when Amelia takes a bowl of worms down to the basement to feed the Babadook. Amelia fears the sadness that once possessed her, so she is feeding it and keeping it quiet, instead of facing it head-on. This connection between the death of her husband and the Babadook is further supported by the fact that the Babadook lives in the basement with Amelia’s husband’s things. 
The point in all of this is that sadness, depression, and fear are all real, and they live as boogymen in our lives. The Babadook was just a way for Jennifer Kent, the director, to express this, while making a Horror movie that will surely go down in history for its brilliance. The ending of the Babadook shows a seemingly normal family. It is different from the family that started out the story because it fought off its fears, acknowledges them, and is doing its best to keep them down. Yet it is the same family because they do have that aspect of fear and pain in their lives that will always be there, lurking inside their minds. The book, Mister Babadook, was right, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.  

 

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