The Babadook tells that story of Amelia who has been a single mother ever since she lost her husband Oscar in a car accident while driving her to the hospital to give birth to their son, Samuel. Samuel, now in kindergarten, is turning into a problem child and acts out his desire to protect his mother from imaginary monsters. One night, Amelia reads her son a strange book about a horrifying monster called the Babadook. That’s when things start to take a drastic, menacing turn for the mother and son.
The story unfolds just as most horror films about scary imaginary monsters – starting with subtle manifestations of the lurking evil as it becomes more and more visible and bolder. But The Babadook is packed with big surprises than your regular horror flick.
This film is multifaceted. One layer is a jarring domestic drama about a dysfunctional family; and the other is about a monster called the Babadook. Although the core of the story isn’t exactly new, the execution makes The Babadook work like a unique film, veering away from the common jolts and cheap jump scares. It depicts perfectly the struggles of a single mother who’s fraying at the seams. Amelia has been grappling with her unresolved trauma over the death of her husband, and it isn’t helping that she’s unable to sleep because of her and her kid’s nightmares. The sense of being trapped in her situation with no apparent escape and no real hope in sight is starting to push her over the edge.
As a character-based piece about two people wrestling with their inner demons, we sympathize with them because we have seen their story probably more than once in our lives. Some of us have even experienced their grief. Hence, we feel their pain, their trepidation, and their struggles, which is also made possible by the magnificent performances of its two leads.
To be honest, I’ve seen a lot of movies which tries to keep its audience guessing as to whether or not the supernatural horror is real or if it’s just a part of the imagination of the protagonist who’s about to lose it. Most of these films executed rather poorly. But The Babadook pulled this off seamlessly. And more than just keeping me guessing, it actually made me care.
The ending would probably keep its viewers wondering as to whether the monster is real, or if it’s just in the head of the main characters. Either way, I do not really care. The film is so good at portraying the Babadook as a sinister metaphor to our inner demons that torture us. It never really goes away. It could stay within the four walls of our house and disturb us for life. It will continuously feed on our sorrows and worst fears – but no matter happens, we must never let it get to us and stay inside ourselves. Just as what Amelia and her son Samuel did at the end of the movie, instead of fighting the monster off our lives, we must accept them as an essential part of our existence. Our everyday reality. It is only then can we live at peace and in harmony with the things that torment us the most.