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The Babadook

The Babadook (2014)

This is a first-rate horror movie but maybe not in the way that most people might expect. First let me state right up front that actress Essie Davis is freaking phenomenal in this movie. I've rarely seen such realistic acting from someone who gives it all she's got from start-to-finish. If I'd seen this when it was first released, I'd have assumed she'd at least be nominated for an Oscar. Too bad she wasn't. But she won quite a few awards around the globe for her performance. Bravo.

Davis plays Amelia, who has lost her husband in a car wreck on the way to the hospital to give birth to her son, Samuel. Several years later we see him played as a young boy by Noah Wiseman. Samuel is afraid of monsters so it's up to Amelia to soothe him at night by checking the closet and under the bed for beasts, then reading him a nice bedtime story, or at least one where the monster gets his in the end. One night he picks a book she's seemingly never seen called "Mr. Babadook," which starts out all right but in the end seems to imply that the Babadook is coming to get Samuel and his mom. He freaks out, naturally. She puts the book out of reach but notices it keeps showing back up. The book seems to change its writing into threats toward mother and son. Samuel is a disturbed young child and he throws fits and tantrums. He is at first a very hard character to like. I wanted him to just walk off the screen and go visit a distant relative. But such is the genius of writer and director Jennifer Kent in making you loathe this little boy. At first. There will come a switch. But before that, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is coming for them and drives his mother to distraction. The movie subtly moves from the mother being irritated to the extreme by Samuel to her believing that the Babadook is real.

Another smart move of this movie is making us wonder if the title character is real. She sees it at one point and the book and her son tell her that the Babadook is in her and one scene hints strongly at this. But for me, this movie
WARNING: spoilers below
portrayed a person (Amelia) slowly descending from depression into mental illness. The movie slowly turns the screws from her son being annoying to me fearing for his safety from the mother. I've seen mental illness close-up from someone I loved (they have since passed away) and Essie Davis must have studied mental illness very closely to prepare for her role because she does things that are completely realistic and reminded me of my own encounter with this horrible illness. Because she was so good, I'm convinced that this is really what the movie was portraying. Yet, the director still plants some doubts in your head.

There are moments where the boy sees things he shouldn't be seeing in reality and we see things that both mother and son see that shouldn't be real. Are they? Depite what I said above in the spoilers, you are never spoonfed exactly what is real but you get a pretty good idea. Some have complained about the ending not being exactly clear but I thought it was. For me, it was
WARNING: spoilers below
psychological terror at its best, with the mother eventually using the "monster" as a coping mechanism to try to control her own fragile mental state.

Not a pleasant movie at all, but one I'm so glad I watched. It was expertly made and surely will be considered a classic movie in the years to come.