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The Babadook (2014); And Further Musings on Mind, Body, and Disease

May 30, 2015

babadook-posterIt’s been a week since I first watched The Babadook and I’m just now able to take a shower without fearing what’s behind the curtain when I open it. For about three days after watching it I found myself growing nervous at nightfall and more uneasy at the normal creeks and groans of my old house. Whenever the rays of the sun faded from the sky welcoming a coat of darkened shadows throughout my home, I found myself turning on my alarm system much earlier than usual and peaking behind clothes in the closet in fear of a black figure embedded in the shadows.

It’s not as if it matters that the alarm was on or not. Or even if I didn’t see that lingering ominously clown-like grin. It doesn’t even matter if I fully accept his existence. He will still be there lurking just right outside of my peripheral waiting to get under my skin. At least this is what Jennifer Kent’s creepy horror, The Badbadook, has done to my brain since watching it.

Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman give incredibly stellar performances as mother and son, Amelia and Sam. Amelia is haunted by dreams of her husband’s death, a death that came while en route to the hospital to deliver her son, Sam. Now, six years later, Amelia can’t help but feel the strain of being a single mother still in mourning of her husband, yet struggling to coddle and comfort her intelligent, but emotionally disturbed son. Things become more difficult when Sam starts speaking of a menacing imaginary friend while growing more erratic and showing signs of physical distress with each day. The strange behavior of her son soon begins to manifest itself when a book pops up in their home chronicling the origins and vicious intentions that “Mister Babadook” has for the family. Together the two must learn how not to let the Babadook in while enduring painful consequences of his presence.

the-babadook-book

It’s a rare feat to find an impressive, engaging horror film these days and even more so one that can develop its characters and story with thoughtful care. The Babadook plays out as if it were a drama, yet still delivers enough thrills to have you squeezing the closest object to you in a desperate need to feel secure and safe. When these films do make their way into the minds of audiences they tend to stick further rooting itself for new fears to grow. True crime and psychological thrillers usually give me the horror fix I crave making me check under beds or look behind doors when home alone. Nevertheless, The Babadook has proved its worth by now haunting my existence for many nightfalls to come.

But, it’s not as though darkness ushers in the Babadook, nor can I trust the daytime to save me from its taunting terror. Nightfall just makes him easier to blend in and creep his way through my home. Taking the reigns as writer and director for her first feature film, Kent does a fantastic job concocting such a horrific figure right down to his look, transcending power, and terrifying voice that still injects me with the heebie-jeebies when I think of it. Likewise, Davis’ performance is stunning. Her portrayal manages to add further depth and terror to the Babadook as an entity and how it affects her family. Davis delivers an outwardly emotional performance filled with love, hate, fear, and everything in between. I grew to genuinely empathize with Sam and Amelia which makes watching them suffer through the Babadook’s hauntings exponentially more gripping. 

The Babadook

A few months ago I wrote a piece focusing on two horror films and their relationship to mental disease. These films illustrate how stress can manifest itself through physical symptoms, an allusion to the very real notion of what stress can do to the human body. Had I seen The Babadook during the time of writing that piece, it would have definitely been included in the discussion. The Babadook captures my favorite angle of psychological horror films; the ability to frighten due to the narrator’s faulty mind or unreliable sanity due to stress. This film leans strongly towards a theme of postpartum depression and what lack of coping can do a person. Furthermore, it’s cryptic ending insinuates that to overcome such strong demons, one must look within and adjust accordingly. But, regardless of its physiological or psychological leanings, Kent crafts a fascinating story sure to chill you to the bone.

SEE IT. And bring on the creeps!

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