REVIEW: The Babadook

With the Babadook resurfacing in popularity recently from becoming an LGBT+ icon (due to a mixup in Netflix’s labeling system and people running with it), I decided that it would be an opportune moment to talk about the movie it came from. Rotten Tomatoes’ generated critic score gave the movie a score of 98% Fresh, and the audience’s generated score is around 72%. Those are both some generous ratings. I would give it somewhere around a 65%, and that’s being generous.

This movie had so much hype when it originally came out; it made me want to enjoy it. It was recommended to me by one of my English teachers who asked if anyone in the class had seen it. She said her friend watched it and was really freaked out from it, and I told her I’d watch it to give her some insight. I’m not stirred by much in horror movies, and I love the creepy, psychological kind, so I figured if there was anyone in the class to take it on, it’d be me. If it was that scary, it would be a good movie, right? (I was wrong.)

We’re introduced to Amelia off the bat as a grieving wife because her husband died in a car crash on their way for her to give birth to their son. Immediately I thought: Oh. This is probably going to be some metaphorical thing for her grief in the end, isn’t it? I pushed that thought aside with hope that it would be something else as I continued to watch the incredibly slow-paced film.

It never built any tension up for me as it progressed; I found myself falling asleep during the mid-section. Although the movie is roughly an hour and a half long, it felt like it was twice that. The writers were hyperfocused on making sure the viewers knew that Samuel was a troubled child, and spent a majority of the movie showing the various ways he was acting out and how Amelia was failing to do anything that helped the situation, and actually made it variably worse. They did a very good job of making the viewers as annoyed as the Amelia, to the point where I too felt like strangling something. I was hoping she’d strangle the child because I couldn’t stand to watch him anymore. (I can’t stand misbehaved children on screen or in real life.)

The movie picked up pace when the mother was “possessed” by the Babadook because she let it into the house and let it take control of her. Unsurprisingly, and as I already had guessed, the Babadook became a personification of her grief, as she took a hold of it and dealt with it in the basement every day while her troubled child began to live a better life.

Very clearly, I’m not a fan of the writing. However, the movie was shot brilliantly enough that I was able to –at the very least—visually appreciate it. The color toning, the cuts, the environments, all of the actual filming and composition was well done. Even the special effects, while few and amateur, were effective. The actors played their roles well and were entirely convincing. They were just stuck with a bad script.

I really wanted this to be as impressive as the short film it was loosely based on. I saw the short film before the movie came out while on YouTube binge watching short horror films, and that captivated me much more than the actual movie itself. Meanwhile, my emotions shifted between bored and annoyed. _______ as a personification/metaphor for grief is an overused writing theme that, for a horror movie, just isn’t worth the time it’s given.

Whenever I see the image of the Babadook I don’t feel Amelia’s grief throughout the movie, or Samuel’s terror of the monster itself; I only feel rage for wasting 93 minutes of my life watching this shallow movie.