I heard about this movie on the movie podcast The Match Cut and once I saw that it was on Netflix, I decided to give it a go. I need to mention that I am the best fan of horror because I am easily freaked out. For example, I saw Ju On in theaters during SXSW back in my college days of the early 2000’s, and it freaked me the fuck out. I do not remember the story so much as scenes, and one particular scene made me grab me hair in terror. I was afraid of taking showers for the next couple of weeks after seeing that film, for I felt I could hear that hideous, distorted noise and when I flung back the shower curtains, I was half-expecting to see a sunken-eyed woman crawling toward me on all fours like some hideous reptile.
So, I don’t watch much horror, but when I do, I tend to obsess over it.
Now my children were watching the wholesome Toy Story 3, so I decided to spend that time watching a woman slowly slip into the madness of grief personified by a Victorianesque demon her son had named the Babadook.
This movie knows how to set a scene. Right from the beginning, we are introduced to the foundation that makes the rest of the horror story – the death of Amelia’s husband. We find through the rest of the film that her grief and survivor guilt haunts her, and the concentration of this pain is personified as one of the most memorable horror monsters in recent memory.
The Babadook is a child’s creation,so naturally it manifests itself in one of everyone’s most cherished childhood memories: pop-up books. Except this pop-up book turns dark, and I don’t mean Lemony Snicket dark, but more like your-kid-is-seeing-things-in-you-and-you-are-going-to-kill-him-and-the-dog dark. The rest of the movie is a slow decent into madness, a la The Shining, but without the bear man blowing a dude in a hotel room.
In the end, the monster does not go away. It is not some poltergeist that needs to be exorcised but is the representation of a woman’s emotional pain. It can never go away, but it can be tamed. The Babadook is forced down, into the recesses of Amelia’s mind, but needs to be fed, much as grief needs acknowledgement to be able to move on.