On the Silver Screen – The Babadook

Oct 26, 2014 | Posted by in Movies
The Babadook

Australian horror The Babadook is the story of Amelia (Essie Davis), raising her problem child Samuel (Noel Wiseman) who is deathly afraid of imaginary monsters and is fixated with a particularly sinister story by the name of The Babadook. Amelia begins to notice a sinister presence plaguing her family

After my less than resounding experience with Annabelle I was reluctant to expose myself to another quite so soon but circumstances meant that I was in a position to see it and I have to say, I’m kinda glad I did. I was expecting another uneven story with boring characters using jump scares in place of actual terror but in many ways this film was exactly the opposite of that so you can colour me pleasantly surprised.

One thing this film does very well is set up a tense and foreboding atmosphere. Focusing the narrative on Amelia’s struggle to raise a son who causes her constant stress. Samuel doesn’t sleep, consistently acts out in various ways, plays with dangerous weapons and even hurts other children. All the while Amelia is trying to hold down a job, pay her bills and just keep herself from being driven insane. There’s a clear lack of support around her due to the difficulties Samuel causes when he is around others.

The BabadookSamuel’s obsession with monsters becomes a cornerstone of the plot as it informs a bit part of the reason that he’s too scared to sleep. It also becomes a little bit of “the boy who cried wolf” scenario when Samuel starts screaming about being invaded by real monsters. When he feels he’s not being listened to it causes his mother more stress which in turn causes more stress for him since he’s not being listened to. It really is an effective and stressful mood this film establishes.

The Babadook was established in a really violently drawn story book which then somehow leads the creature to start stalking Amelia and Samuel. I really appreciated the fact that it is initially unclear whether it’s actually real or if it is a manifestation of a growing insanity within Amelia. The signs are all there inclusive of a tragic event in her past that she’s never really managed to get over and the aforementioned stress filled life that she leads. It is highly conceivable that she could be driven to a psychotic break that causes her subconscious to blame a monster she recently read about in a story book. There is plenty of evidence that she and her son are being stalked by an otherworldly monster but to me the psychotic break theory is more interesting and is supported by the events of the film.

Essie Davis does a great job of playing Amelia and really creates empathy with her situation in the audience. I really felt sorry for her situation and admired her strength to keep going even though all of her instincts must have been telling her to give up. There were moments in the film where I honestly might have given up. Noel Wiseman does an excellent job of playing Samuel, I was convinced that he was an annoying problem child and was glad I wasn’t in the room with him. I can see how being around him would stress anyone out.

In terms of the scares the film does these really well. I’m not easily scared by films and this one didn’t really upset me too much but there were moments where I was genuinely unnerved. Amelia’s house was big, dark and creaky enough to be imposing and bringing the audience into her perspective to experience the scares as she does works really well. It’s a shame the film betrays this in the last 20 minutes or so by going for maniacal humour rather than genuine terror. Up to that point it was doing a really effective job of maintaining a constantly unsettling atmosphere so to break this with a humour focused final act was a real shame. Some of the noises the Babadook made were nothing short of comical with a roaring noise that I’ve heard many places before but can’t quite put my finger on. If anyone does know then please put me out of my misery in the comments section. I’m not sure if these moments were supposed to be funny or not but I found them hilarious.


  • 7/10
    The Babadook - 7/10


An engaging pseudo psychological horror that leaves it ambiguous whether it’s actually happening as we see it. Amelia’s characterisation as an insanely strung out single mother with psychological problems as well as a son with sever behavioural issues is excellent and carries the suspense of the film really nicely. Some genuinely unsettling moments are put across effectively but the end of the film leans more towards laughs which upsets the good work done previously. Other than that the film was a nice surprise and a very effective horror movie.