From the first time I saw the trailer (at the cinemas, before watching ‘The Guest’) to re-watching it on YouTube, skimming Rotten Tomatoes and looking at all the poster art, the only thing I prepared for with ‘The Babadook’ was to be terrified.
I am absolutely appalling in coping with horror films, hence my first reaction at the end being “I thought it’d be even scarier.” To be clear, I spent more than half the film fidgeting, rising and sinking in my seat, raising my eyes above my glasses so that I could blur the terror out. This was the mindset I’d been in for months, and why I’d avoided watching it for so long.
Then I got home. After quickly turning on all the lights and opening cupboards and doors, I started thinking about ‘The Babadook’. Reading about it, it dawned on me how damn brilliant this film actually is. It’s as good a take on depression, grief and honest parenting dilemmas as I’ve seen. All these real-world horrors in the guise of an entertaining scare-fest is one of its best magic tricks.
Amelia writing The Babadook as a coping mechanism and way to convey what she’s dealing with to her son is a chilling realisation. i feel foolish for not instantly recognising this. All I got at first from the fantastic ending was that these mental health issues will never be completely cured, but can be dealt with slowly. I loved that it went this direction.
An hour on reddit led me to this:
Allowing a part of the mind to remain fully unconscious lets it grow unchecked. It allows it power it doesn’t rightly deserve. If you ignore it, it will grow stronger. Sometimes this results in an eruption, causing those unsavory aspects to overtake all other aspects of a person. Psychosis, fits of anger, etc. And so it does, rapidly and with little warning. A few knocks before bashing through the door.
This has purpose though, to the mental health of the individual. Becoming a more consciously whole person can be of great benefit. When you can ‘let in’ parts of yourself that were being denied you can gain power over impulses and behavior being caused by them. There can also be gems hidden in the gunk. Hypothetically, say a person who is overly timid confronts hidden anger. They may find this opens up the ability for them to confront others in a healthy way. So this eruption of the Shadow to the surface is a violent way of aspects of ‘self’ merging. We see at the end how Amelia has learned to have a pressure valve for her mind, and to handle this in a more healthy fashion. There is no getting rid of the shadow (babadook), it’s rightfully a part of each of us.
The entire thread is rich with analysis, and I highly recommend going through it all. It elevated my appreciation of the film to the point of wanting to re-watch this, horrifying a thought as that is for me.
It goes without saying that every aspect of the film is on point. Essie Davis’ lead performance, the screenplay, editing, direction, sound design and the beautifully lo-fi production design. The introduction to the book is a one minute masterpiece in itself.
Bravo, Jennifer Kent.