We often look back nostalgically on childhood, envious of the joy we felt and the boundless imaginations we possessed. How conveniently we forget the other side of that coin: as children, we experience a depth of terror our adult selves continually try to recreate for cathartic entertainment.
When we try to bring those childhood fears to life on the screen, we often end up with movies about "things that go bump in the night," which is a somewhat superficial approach. While it does provide an opportunity for a supernatural experience, it ignores the root of our fear: the unknown. As children, we lack life experience. We lack nuance. We lack understanding. Not knowing creates in us fear. Yes, we fear what lurks in the darkness but we also fear the adult world because we do not understand how it works. The Babadook works to exploit both those fears.
The short story: a widowed mother of a young boy experiences a mental breakdown and tries to murder her child. The slightly longer story is that the frightening experience of losing control is here represented as "possession by a storybook character."
I've been sitting on this post for a while now because even though I was motivated by "good buzz" to watch The Babadook, I wasn't feeling particularly inspired to write about it after finally seeing it. When it crashed onto the scene a few years back, it felt like everyone and their mother was talking about it. Rarely do I succumb to the hype surrounding a movie; too high expectations often lead to nothing but disappointment — and being the jaded movie watcher that I am, disappointment comes all too easily for me.
While there is something compellingly uncomfortable about The Babadook — and you all know how I love movies that are uncomfortable to watch (Possession!) — it certainly wasn't the mind-blowing experience for me that everyone claimed it would be. The underlying story — that there is capacity for violence and evil within all of us that we must choose to control — is a tale as old as time (as they say) and is well articulated here, but it somehow didn't come together for me in an enjoyable way. In fact, when people ask me about the movie I typically say, "it was an hour and a half of of Essie Davis screaming." That's what I remember most about it. And don't get me wrong: I LOVE Essie Davis — probably because I can't get enough of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries — but I just didn't love listening to her shrieking for over an hour.
If you're looking for something more meaningful that another installment of Paranormal Activity or something less Hollywood-y than The Boy, check out The Babadook. Just remember that I warned you: be prepared for an hour of shrieking.
You can watch the (really fantastic) Babadook trailer here:
And you can buy yourself a copy of The Babadook here: