The Babadook (2014)
I don’t want to give too much away with this one, so this will be short and I’ll let you see The Babadook for yourself. I was lucky enough to see it in a single screen theatre in Los Angeles, introduced by William Friedkin—the one and only director of The Exorcist—who told the eager audience at our midnight screening that The Babadook was the scariest movie he’s ever seen.
For me, the most terrifying movies are the ones with the force, entity, nightmare, or villain that you just can’t really fight. No bullet will kill them—not even silver, you can’t stab them, burn them, drown them, or use a spell or bible to get rid of them. No priest is coming to save you. The terror comes and goes as it pleases, destroying your life or at the very least, annoying you, until it kills you. Or maybe you get to run away—but not for long …
The villain doesn’t always have to be someone. And in The Babadook, it’s something. One of the strongest, most resilient things in the world, something we’ll all meet one day.
What starts out as a tale of an annoying kid named Samuel (who announces that his dad is in the cemetery early on in the film), a well-meaning mother, Amelia, who is exhausted and overwhelmed, and a creepy children’s book—“Mister Babadook”—that appears in the house (which can never be good) turns into a layered psychological walk through the lives of two deeply wounded people and how they’re coping (or not …) with life after a tragic loss.
Eventually, the book becomes more than a book—and the lines inside predict disturbing images of violence and loss of control. The Babadook makes it clear that you cannot run or hide, and it can’t be ignored. It lives in the darkest places, in the shadows, until it envelopes you.
There’s a dread throughout the whole film—where you feel sad and scared for the mother and son. You wonder if the Babadook is real or a cruel imaginary friend—and you wonder who he is the friend of, exactly. Some of the later scenes borderline on a story of possession, which typically makes me yawn nowadays—since I’ve seen too many movies that do it poorly, but The Babadook is smart, and does it well. There’s no demon here, no poltergeists, only people, life, and death—and that’s the scariest truth of all. It’s scary. And it’s unsettling.
Whether you think the Babadook is entirely in their heads, or the creepy figure in the top hat crouching in the dark, the movie is clever, compelling, well-acted, and truly relatable to whoever has met and dealt with this monster in their own life—keeping them chained up somewhere in their own conscience. I left the theatre thinking I’d met my own Babadook, and I knew just where it lived.
Rachelle's Final Review
If you go into this with expectations of non-stop terror and gore, you’re in for a disappointment. This movie made it on countless best-of lists, and for good reason. The Babadook is a slow build, a psychological, thoughtful, disturbing horror movie that you want to talk about after. Who or what is The Babadook and what does it want? Deep down, we all may know. The isolation with the two main characters is frightening on its own, and the movie comes with several things I need in a horror movie: Creepy fingers, scary voices, creatures living in darkness, whispers in the dark, and the unavoidable, inescapable, terrifying truth. After the credits roll, think about it, let it sink in … and it will haunt you for the rest of the night.