The Babadook (2014)


The Babadook – horror film review

So thirty years after its original release, I finally sat down and watched Australian horror The Babadook. Well, okay it wasn’t really thirty years, but it felt like it (it was actually closer to six months).

And after much anticipation – “the scariest film ever made!” – I didn’t want to build it up too much, because often that just leads to disappointment. So I didn’t read many reviews and just waited until…..well I was ready to scare the shit out of myself I suppose.

babadook1

Anyway, the story appears to be fairly simple – Amelia is a widow and single mother, struggling to keep things together as she brings up her difficult, six year old son Samuel and works in a care home – all the time still mourning for her good looking husband who died whilst she was in labour with Samuel.

To make this already unhappy situation just that bit more unhappy, Samuel is an odious child who screeches, kicks and has an obsession with monsters and weapons. He’s not even pleasant to look at – certainly not a cutie pie. I’m sure he’s sweet in real life, but in the film he is a loud, draining child who pulls some damn weird facial expressions. And I wasn’t being shallow when I mentioned the good looking husband earlier. It’s almost like a darkly unfunny joke – good looking husband dies, horrible kid stays.

babadook2

So the household is not the happiest and has rather a lonely feel. It’s clear that Amelia is struggling and the pair don’t have much help from family or friends. It’s a dark film – both literally and figuratively. There is a huge emphasis on Amelia and Samuel being isolated and alone – I’d even go as far as to say it’s depressing.

But I don’t want to give too much away. I believe most films are best watched with as little knowledge as possible. The less you know, the more surprised you will be! I mean unless you’ve been living in space or inside a submarine for the last six months you will know they find a book and then the creepy, old Mister Babadook makes an appearance in their home, hiding in the shadows and terrifying them both. That’s pretty much the premise but the mother/son relationship is more integral to the plot than I thought it would be.

babadook4

So did I like The Babadook? Yes, I enjoyed it very much. I was glued to the screen and I thought it was original, very well written and acted – and it appealed to me a lot. But did I think it was really scary? The most terrifying film ever made? No, not particularly.

For me, the film was more horrible than scary. It was even kind of disturbing in places but judging by some of the thoughts I’ve heard and read since watching it, we all have different opinions. The plot, the ending, the ‘scariest film ever’ claims – everyone has their own view and I can understand the diversity. It won’t appeal to everyone and wasn’t your standard scary movie by any means. It almost felt a bit ‘arty’ in places and I can understand why some viewers didn’t enjoy it.

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After watching The Babadook, it did play on my mind for a good few days but not in a “I can’t sleep” way – I was more thinking about the story, particularly where the plot was slightly ambiguous. I think that’s why I liked the film anyway, despite not being the terrifying nightmare it promised to be, it was such an original story.

I also found it a very tense film but I can’t honestly be sure if that’s because of the film, or because I was so terrified of being terrified – if that makes sense. A lot of scares are delivered in a different way to the norm but there are still plenty of dark, shadowy night time scenes more reminiscent of classic horror storytelling.

All in all, I’d recommend this film very highly. Any fan of horror – well it goes without saying you should watch this, but don’t expect a run-of-the-mill things that go bump in the night set up. The Babadook has a lot more to offer – if you decide to let him in.

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About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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72 Responses to The Babadook (2014)

  1. Jordan Dodd says:

    Nice review. I’m glad you liked it, this was perhaps the best film we released last year, though The Infinite Man and The Rover were both great too!!

    That blu-Ray looks AMAZING. I’ll need to get my grubby mitts on that SOON!

    While I didn’t find this scary, it is certainly a lot more disturbing, which for me is the new scary. These endless supernatural and slasher flicks just do absolutely nothing for me, whereas this is more a psychological thriller than a horror movie… which for me is scarier than todays ‘horror’. Though in saying that, I think all good horror has a psychological component. The crazy this about this film is the scariest thing about it all is the mother in the last act!! That last act was INSANELY tense!!

    Have you seen Rosemary’s Baby or Repulsion? If not, and you liked this, definetely see those two as they are both simiarly psychological thrillers with female leads. Repulsion definetely has more of a horror angle to it IMO (in that its the ultimate nightmare for the second half of the film) while Rosemary’s Baby is extremely similar to Babadook, complete with the batshit crazy last act. The ending to both those films was better than the Babadook tho.

    I real;ly didn’t like the ending. The last act was so intense and surreal, and ambigious…. then that last scene, it wasn’t surreal, it looked as normal as could be. It was as if they suddenly turned the Babadook into a literal thing when before that, we didn’t know either way. I dunno, the ending really conflicts me.

    Sorry for the wall of text here Emma! I’ll shut the fuck up now!! 😛

    • emmakwall says:

      Haha, you don’t need to shut the fuck up, I love the wall of text!! 🙂

      Thanks and yes definitely liked it.

      I definitely agree with you!!!! I didn’t like the ending either, whether the Babadook was real or not, the ending still sucked. I like the idea that it was the mother’s mental health and pretty much all the clues point to that, but like you say (and I said the same!!) it was conflicting, mainly because of the bowl of worms that some invisible entity moved across the floor. And if he WAS real? Keeping him as a house pet? Nice! Doesn’t bode well for a happy future…!

      I’ve only watched it the once and I
      feel I need to watch it again to have a the best rounded view.

      Rosemary’s Baby yes I’ve seen (great recommendation!) just looked up Repulsion (another Polanksi eh, are you fan?) and it sounds rather good, I’ll definitely try it, thank you!!!

      I hadn’t seen those other films you mentioned either (best of 2014), but just looked them up and both sound good especially The Rover!

      • Jordan Dodd says:

        “And if he WAS real? Keeping him as a house pet? Nice! Doesn’t bode well for a happy future…! ”

        HAHA! So true…..

        I’m glad you don’t mind me ranting hehe 😛 please tell me to reign it in if you want haha!

        Yeah I’m a massive Polanski fan – it was he and Kubrick who got me into film originally. Repulsion is FANTASTIC but its not an easy watch – hence why I said its more on the horror side. It is very unsettling at times, which is what I like 😀 Especially the final act, batshit crazy but in a different way to ‘Rosemary’s’

        Re- Those two other films, heh I’m not surprised you hadn’t heard of them, Australia is terrible at promoting its cinema. Half the reason I started a blog was for that reason really. The Infinite Man was filmed in my state on a next to nothing budget, the film festivals loved it but we (Australia) didn’t seem to. The Rover was shot here too but had a bigger budget. Oh, and it had Guy Pearce and an incredibly impressive Robert Pattinson too haha. They are both great movies in very different ways.

        Cheers!

  2. lukebbtt says:

    I think horror movies work best in the cinema. There is something so terrifying about being in a dark room with surround sound and not having access to a pause button. No, the Babadook isn’t the scariest movie I have ever seen (that honour goes to Insidious and I think that is mainly because it was the first proper horror I watched, so I was totally unprepared for that soundtrack and atmosphere), but when the Babadook moves towards the camera, in that unrealistic, other-worldly way, on a massive screen that takes up your entire vision, it just cuts right through your body to the fear factor. It was brilliantly uncomfortable.

    Also, please review It Follows before 2016 😉

    • emmakwall says:

      Yes I agree! In principle anyway, but 9 times out of 10 when I see a scary film at the cinema it’s ruined by groups of teenagers (sorry to stereotype but it usually is!) who giggle, scream and whisper loudly about through the scary bits. And it bloody annoys me!!! Without any of that annoyance I totally agree – cinema is the best viewing experience.

      Yes, Insidious really scared me too! In the classic sense it scared me more than The Babadook. The soundtrack is brilliant isn’t it, I have it on CD. It’s so bloody good!! Though I can’t listen to it late at night haha!

      Haha, I will try!!! 🙂 🙂

      Thanks for your comment Luke 🙂

      And I have surround sound at home :p

      • lukebbtt says:

        I was sitting next to a gay bloke (I didn’t know him, the cinema was just that packed) for The Strangers. One moment saw him jump out of his skin, grab my hand and leave a bloody scratch mark on my knuckle. So yes, I have also had the horror movie cinema experience 😉 lol

  3. Justine B. says:

    Yay I love this movie! I agree, it’s definitely not scary in a conventional sort of way. But it doesn’t matter, it shows that not all horror movies have to scare people shitless in order to be good. It kind of reminded me of The Orphanage after you recommended that to me. The mother-son relationship is in the forefront in both films, although The Orphanage did creep me out a little more. If you liked this, I’m sure you’ll like It Follows. It’s not conventionally scary, not a lot of cheap jump scares, it’s like a slow burn thriller that takes its time building up a really creepy atmosphere. Damn, I have to go write my review of it now before my brain stops working.

    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks so much Justine!!!

      I loved it, I thought it was really good and spellbinding (not in the Disney way haha). I am actually really looking forward to watching it again, just for a second opinion on the plot.

      The Orphanage definitely scared me more, definitely. But that’s not to say it’s better, it was just creepier. And I think different things scare different people, there was a lot in that film that appealed to my inner child scared out of her wits haha.

      That’s such a good point about the mother and son relationship! And even the basement at the end…..though Samuel had a happier ending (though most scary films have basements I suppose lol)

      I am going crazy not watching It Follows yet. I may have to be naughty and find a place I can watch it……………..!

      In the meantime I can’t wait to read your review!!! 😀

  4. theipc says:

    CLAM!!!!!!!!!!

    The Babadook is all kinds of good but It Follows rules!!!

    Great post, m’lady!

    Love Pen!!!

  5. Great review Emma! I loved this film also – I thought it was ever so dark and clever. Also, I agree about the hot husband dying… I would’ve been pissed!

    • emmakwall says:

      Thank you so much! 🙂 I’ve just been browsing your blog (I just wrote ‘browning’ then – weird!) and it looks bloody brilliant! I love reading reviews for extreme horror.

      Love the fact you agree with me on the husband too!! It’s true though isn’t it, I know who I would have preferred scratching my back in bed ha ha. And it did seem like a genuine added extra to display her dislike of Samuel.

      Thanks again 🙂 I’m going to check out some of yours now!!

      • Browning – that sounds like something no one wants to do haha! Thank you so much. Yours looks fantastic too – I have some more ‘browning’ around yours to do ;).
        Totally agree! Who wants their crazy child being an absolute pain in the arse when you could’ve had that strapping man scratching your back! Poor woman 😦

        • emmakwall says:

          I think we’ll have to call it browning from now on! “I do love browning your stuff Zoe!”

          Thanks, that’s really kind of you to say 🙂

          I’ve been having fun reading your reviews already!!! I must admit I do love reading about extreme stuff, even I probably won’t watch it. Morbid curiosity?!

          • “And I love browning your stuff too Emma!” I’m cracking up over here!
            Just the truth 🙂
            Thank you so much!! I think morbid curiosity! Mine was always reading, and then I decided to watch them… Sometimes I do think oh god, I shouldn’t have watched that one haha!

            • emmakwall says:

              Hahaha, love it!!!! Browning off some posts 🙂

              Oh my god so I am heading on the same path as you and Damian!! Because I love reading up on these films…I guess the next step will be watching them!

              It is hard explaining sometimes isn’t it, when people say “why do you like watching them?” I….I….don’t even know!

              Mind you, I recall in a comment today your dad bought the uncut Human Centipede 2. I guess you don’t need to do much explaining to him at least! Haha 🙂 that’s awesome!

            • You are… You’ll be watching depraved films with us very soon! He’s watched even worse ones than me! It’s hard not to follow through with curiosity.
              Yeah, I get asked that a lot and there’s not really an answer! You say because you enjoy it and people think you’re the next Ted Bundy. He’s the reason I watch it all! He calls me weird but I keep telling him he showed me my first horror film!

  6. This is my favourite review of this film. Deal with it.

  7. I. Love. This. Movie. So. Much. I hadn’t heard of it before I watched it so I didn’t have anything to go on and I thought it was wonderful. It’s actually the first movie I ever reviewed on the blog. I found it scary because I wasn’t expecting it but I see what you mean about it being more tense than anything. I watched it twice and thought that, aside from what it obviously depicted, it might also be a metaphor for Amelia struggling with a mental illness. SPOILER ALERT : that’s why she has to live with it at the end. She learns to cope with it but it’s a constant struggle in her life. My husband hates it when I look for deeper meaning like that, he’s more of the “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” mentality but it was just a thought I had.

    Anyways, great review and thanks for sharing!

    PS – It Follows keeps popping up everywhere I read! I HAVE to see it.

    • emmakwall says:

      *this comment will be full of spoilers!!!*

      *seriously! Loads! You have been warned…*

      Thanks so much for your great comment, it’s great to discuss this film! I loved it too and can’t wait to watch for a second time, so I can piece it together a bit more.

      I think you’ve banged the nail on the head . I’m still unsure of my own perception completely but the Babadook being a metaphor for Amelia’s mental health is definitely one (very solid) idea and I think there are clues pointing to that. I remember Amelia saying at one point she wrote “some kids books” and when you piece it all together, it does actually make sense. The only thing I didn’t like, was the fact an invisible entity (Mr Babadook!) took the bowl of worms from her at the end – that made it seem as though there WAS a supernatural force. I know it’s only a little thing but I’m like you, I enjoy looking at the deeper meaning and piecing it all together! If it wasn’t for that one scene every other supernatural element could be accounted for. (I think)

      When I was watching it, I thought it was all supernatural. I thought maybe the family had been targeted because of the depression hanging over them, but I think what you said is probably right. But I think it might be one of those films where they say “make up your own minds!”

      Yeah I found it seriously tense! But I was a bit worried about watching it as I can be a HUGE wimp haha! I was pleasantly surprised I suppose that it was so different to what I was expecting.

      Thanks so much for your great comment 🙂 I can’t wait to watch It Follows!!!!!!! 🙂

      • No one else was there when the bowl moved though, so that can all be her perception. No one outside of her son saw any of the supernatural events occur. And children are more susceptible to believe those kinds of things, even if they aren’t happening. Speaking of the son, I completely agree with you about how horrible (and not cute at all) he is at the beginning. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and give him a hard shake! But he actually really grew on me. I love love love horror but I’m still easy to scare (mostly because I want to be scared… I don’t pretend to be macho at all) love the heart thumping, want to look away but I can’t, breath caught in my throat feeling and this delivered on that. I appreciated that it didn’t rely on blood and gore to get the point across, like so many other horror movies.

        • emmakwall says:

          Yes that’s very true and a good point! I just didn’t think it laid with the rest of the theory as well but I do see what you mean. I didn’t like that last scene much anyway, even if it was all supernatural, it was kind of worse! Keeping him as a house pet? Lol.

          That’s the only thing though, everything else entirely I can see working from the mental health perception. And even the basement itself, that was her shrine wasn’t it. Maybe it was all just a metaphor for grief.

          The way the son was portrayed was very clever. We all hated him in the first half of the film, felt dreadfully sorry for him in the second half. I think he only behaved badly because his mum had been severely depressed all his life. It’s easy to feel sorry for her, losing her husband etc, but he spent the first six years of his life locked up with that depressed woman, no siblings, no dad, no-one else to take the burden. Must have been awful for him! 😦

          That’s the kind of stuff I enjoyed thinking about a lot afterwards, the dynamics of their relationship and the past and present we didn’t see.

          I love being scared too! But what I don’t love is not being able to sleep. I’m almost 30 and it still happens!!!!! Have you ever seen The Orphanage? That scared me so much!

          • I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last scene myself, I felt like it seemed rushed or that it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the movie but it makes sense with the mental illness aspect.

            It is interesting to look at family dynamics in a situation like this one and I feel bad for anyone that has to deal with depression. I feel like a lot of the time people don’t think about how the family has to cope with it as much as the individual and this was a good depiction of that. A lot of times we, as a culture, blame children if they misbehave, but it’s important to look at what’s going on in their life to make them that way.

            I luckily never have trouble sleeping (not to rub it in or anything!) so I watch as many horrors as I can, much to my husband’s dismay (who does have trouble sleeping sometimes).

            I have a bit of an obsession with Guillermo del Torro, who produced it, so I definitely did see it and I was not disappointed!! Sooo scary.

  8. Good review there Ems! I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and yeah, I thought it was more disturbing than scary as well. Definitely a film all should watch.

    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks Geoff 🙂

      I totally agree, everyone should watch it! It’s not something you see every day.

      It was very clever how your thoughts changed from part 1 to part 2. I hated the kid at first, then I felt so sorry for him.

  9. Mr. Movie says:

    I enjoyed ‘The Babadook,’ but think ‘It Follows’ is a much better flick!

  10. vinnieh says:

    Brilliant review Emma, definitely want to check this film out. The stuff you recommend is always good.

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