The Babadook (2014)
March 31, 2015 5:01 AM - Subscribe

A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

I didn't post this it just appeared out of nowhere
posted by tel3path (35 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like this one is hitting Netflix streaming on April 14th. I'm excited to see it!
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:57 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Essie Davis in this and Essie Davis in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries are two completely different people, right? Similar facial features, but otherwise not the same woman?

Fragility and madness vs. sexy, witty strength, both characters realized completely...I've seen her in exactly two things and I kind of want her to be in every movie and TV show I watch from now on.

EDIT: Oh, looked at her IMDb page, actually she was also in the Matrix sequels which I've seen once each. I'm sure she was 100% convincing in those, but I'm not likely to remind myself any time soon.
posted by doctornecessiter at 6:13 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

This one had some nice little turns of the screw. The ending was always going where it was going, which is to say it was not particularly surprising, but the piece generated some dark atmosphere that will resonate with parents especially.

Worth your time.
posted by Wolof at 6:16 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

The most impressive part about this movie is the creepy kid. It is amazing how well that child actor plays disturbed and concerning as all else. (what a claim to fame at age 9) The babadook on the phone was a little laughable, which took me out of the creepiness of the movie.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:46 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved it. Great year for horror movies and, if you include What We Do in the Shadows, horror parodies. With It Follows and A Girl Walks Home at Night, we seem to be in a stretch where horror movies make use of weirdness -- in the Weird Tales sense -- rather than jump scares and detailed exsanguination and evisceration for their horror. I find I like this approach a lot more. These films feel deeply, ambiguously metaphoric, and this one's central metaphor, about a mother's desire to murder her child, was terrific.
posted by maxsparber at 8:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

I did enjoy how awful the kid was, like creepy kids in movies are either etheral or precocious but they're never just nonstop screaming hellions.
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on March 31, 2015 [7 favorites]

Except that it wasn't nonstop. There were moments when he was being nice, or trying his hardest to be invisible/innocuous, and people just wouldn't take that from him.
posted by tel3path at 9:09 AM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

Right, which was part of the realism, which I appreciated in a movie about be-hatted metaphor monsters.
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on March 31, 2015

(The best reaction was Mallory Ortberg tweeting that she just saw the movie and needs someone to hold her and someone responding with HOLDING LEADS TO CHILDREN WHICH LEADS TO BADADOOKS.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [18 favorites]

When I watched this with a friend, our conclusion was "So this is about how motherhood is an actual horror show?" We found it to be pretty chilling and harrowing, and wow Essie Davis. I had real trouble reconciling Miss Fisher Essie Davis with her role here. What an astonishing actor.
posted by yasaman at 9:22 AM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Babadook storybook freaked me out as few things do.

I kept thinking all movie that nothing had better happen to that adorable dog, and was so furious when it did.

I didn't like the ending, which just seemed kind of silly.
posted by orange swan at 9:37 AM on March 31, 2015

I had begun to recommend the movie to my brother and his wife, but I caught myself....They have a one-year-old daughter now, their first child. I'll set an alarm to remind myself to recommend it to them in about 20 years.

Or should they watch it now as a cautionary tale? "Raise her well, look out for the Babadook!"

I can't wait to show my niece the popup book when it arrives.*

* JOKING. I love her, I will not do that.**

** but how funny would it be for about 1 second if I did
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:40 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

I thought the whole thing was far more sad than it was scary. It was horribly sad from the beginning and went downhill from there.

This is the third movie or TV series I've seen lately that makes horror out of untreated mental illness. Part of the horror of it, for me, is just how unnecessary so much of the characters' suffering is.

The sister(-in-law?) who condemned her but didn't see that they needed professional help in there, didn't call social services or anyone who could have intervened.
posted by tel3path at 10:11 AM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Something me & my friends discussed afterwards was the link between the mother being a writer (of "children's books") and the Babadook taking the form of a book (and being an anagram of Dada Book).
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [6 favorites]

I liked this one. I thought the metaphor was so obvious and bashing me over the head that it wasn't a particularly frightening movie, though. I just It Follows last night, and while they're similar, The Babadook just wasnt as scary because it's so obviously not supposed to be an actual demon from a book.

I hated the kid, but that's definitely the point.
posted by dogwalker at 1:13 PM on March 31, 2015

Mark Kermode's favourite film of last year, Wittertainment fans.

In the first review, he mentions Jennifer Kent's earlier short film Monster.
posted by Grangousier at 2:34 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

This movie is why you don't paint your walls grey. Most depressing house, ever.
posted by Catblack at 4:43 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

The HOUSE THO, it's practically another character. You don't need supernatural assistance to think something is up, and while there's the all the being scared of your kid/being scared that you might harm your kid horror in there, there's also a lot of General Mom Panic - everyone is judging you and you're unfit and your kids are going to taken away - I swear at one point she just turns her head and we cut back to the room and the piles of clutter have doubled.
posted by The Whelk at 4:49 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

Loved this. Was completely wound tight for the whole thing.

I'll wager with you, I'll make you a bet,
The more you deny me, the stronger I get --

posted by Countess Elena at 5:02 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

I thought the metaphor was so obvious and bashing me over the head that it wasn't a particularly frightening movie...

Exactly, it was very well done, but ultimately left me "eh". Horror movies are always difficult for me personally because it the genre relies on people repeatedly acting foolish in the face of the supernatural. On one hand that's understandable, but on the other, as an audience member, one gets tired of genre stories relying on well worn tropes.

But yeah, raising kids is hard.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:23 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I didn't get "scary" so much as "creepy" and "dread" mostly cause so much of it felt so real and placing you into that state where everyone is screaming and nohing is going right and everybody thinks you're crazy and oh god there's still so much more to do, etc.

I honestly thought she killed her son previously and the monster was her awareness/guilt creeping in.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

I watched this movie back in the fall and really liked. Glad it's finally coming to Netflix. More people will understand my insane urge (even now months later) to sing “If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of…the Babadook” to the tune of the Reading Rainbow theme.

Also, whoever was talking about how the woman who stars in this is almost completely unrecognizable compared to Miss Fisher is spot on. I started watching Miss Fisher after I'd seen the movie and it took me a good 3 or 4 episodes to figure out why she looked so familiar.
posted by sparkletone at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that i seem to be fairly alone in really not liking this movie.

The absolute best part about it, which almost saved the movie, is how creepy looking and genuinely unlikeable the kid is. That, and the relatively awesome cinematography that sets up even the mundane to look upsetting or creepy without beating you over the head with it.

I agree with The Whelk on the house almost being another character. And the brilliance of the forebodingness of the house itself, clutter, the appearing/disappearing bug hole, etc.

I just disliked the 3rd act and ending so much that it ruined the entire movie for me. Several friends who had seen it before and rewatched it with me when i first saw it said the same thing as well.

There are clever things about it. It portrays the frantic, stressed out, constantly missing/fucking things up just constant tension and dread better than almost any movie i've seen. But for every way it succeeds in creating a great atmosphere(mostly), it fails at actually telling a story that doesn't sort of just go limp at the end.

I will give them credit for not just cheaping out and having either the mom kill the kid, or the kid otherwise die though. Because everyone wanted to see that happen after the 1st act.
posted by emptythought at 2:32 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

My wife had postpartum depression with intrusive thoughts and this movie basically played out like the horror movie version of that. The weird real world resonances with our family's struggles a few years back made this hard to take.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:33 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah it's very emotionally real, even if you've never had a kid or been a widower, the way it dramatizes the feeling of NEVER ENDING PILES OF CRAP YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH and no one is helping and you blink and THE PILES ARE BIGGER HOW?!?!
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Once thing I really liked about this movie was how it well managed the tricky business of turning the protagonist (mom) into the villain, and the antagonist (the kid) into the protagonist, at least for the stretch of time towards the end where she goes off her rocker.
posted by whir at 9:18 PM on April 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

What I thought came across was that the kid is unlikeable and that this doesn't change the fact that he is a kid and nothing that is happening, either to him or through him, is his fault.
posted by tel3path at 3:31 PM on April 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

What a well-done horror movie! (Hooray Australia!) It certainly called to mind We Need To Talk About Kevin in terms of being an allegory about the ambivalence, isolation, and social judgment heaped on single mothers of troubled boys in particular. Both written and directed by women, I might add.

The book itself was amazingly rendered. Part of me initially wished we'd been given more of the book's origin story -- but the film worked beautifully without it, and took on a more psychological flavor. Gin and Broadband's analysis here is brilliant. We are so used to the convention of horror films really spelling out what the proverbial book (or box, or doll) is, how the protagonists somehow allowed it into their home, and what the consequences are when they read from it, used it, etc. I kept waiting for the helpful paranormal expert or holy man or university folklorist type of person to show up in the 3rd act and get themselves maimed and killed right as they are calling the house telling them to run. So I've definitely come to appreciate more subtle horror films like this one that don't need to Clearly Spell Out The Reasons For All The Scary Things.


The ending came as quite a surprise -- now that really went against genre. No crazed homicidal mom of a dead child ending up in a mental hospital or jail? No third party randomly finding that book on their child's bookshelf, rinse and repeat for the sequel? Thank you! It was clever not to show the audience what The Babadook's true face looked like. (Or we might "wish we were dead," no?) My take is it resembles a messed up version of the late husband, who went back to the basement where all of his belongings are kept. I like the idea that mother and son were colluding to keep the secret "alive" in their basement. And wait a minute, how the fuck did the kid cause that bird to appear? Yes! Loved this movie.
posted by hush at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I felt like the first half or 2/3 was about the best/creepiest horror since The Exorcist. The tension kept increasing like the twisting of a screw.

The ending........ could have been a little better. It was on the right track in the basement but then they go upstairs and it doesn't quite work.

Maybe she needed to smash the monster with the violin or something. Or maybe that would add to the metaphor being too heavy-handed.

I was waiting for something more when she lifted the hat. I wanted her to see herself, but maybe that would have been too Empire Strikes Back.

They could have kept upping the stakes with the kid and lack of food, too. Show him get weaker and weaker and get more desperate.
posted by starman at 12:26 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

What I liked best is that the three monsters all lived happily ever after in the blue-grey house, where even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.
posted by merelyglib at 10:35 PM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm curious to know how people who hated the ending read it.

Because to me, that ending made the movie. It was just saturated with dread and terror. The saccharine-sweetness is so, so terrifyingly obviously a thin veneer of ice over the raging fire of hell. It could shatter again at any time; there's some serious untreated mental illness going on in that house.

I see the sticky-sweet tone and the markers of unreality - in particular a young boy somehow getting a live pigeon for a magic trick what? - as the ominous warning signs of an imminent collapse. The happiness is a farce, a game that they're both playing to pretend that it's all okay now. Things are not as they seem. What are they actually? We don't know. We're not shown. But based on what we saw before, we can probably guess...
posted by Scattercat at 2:58 AM on June 7, 2015 [10 favorites]

I just watched this, finally, and man, that was good. It totally got me with the isolation/madness creepiness. The birthday party was Rosemary's Baby level of fucked up social isolation while surrounded by people. Performances were great - I totally missed that the mother was Phryne Fisher, and I hope that kid has a great acting future ahead of him because he *made* the movie.

The ending was ambiguous for me - maybe it's just "yeah, we can tame the demons if we tend the underlying needs", but there's a babadook in your basement - anything could happen.

I loved the lighting - very reminiscent of old movies, and the color palette in the house was the next best thing to b&w.

As soon as I saw the family dog, I looked the film up on does the dog die so I could be prepared.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:08 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Before reading this thread the one thing that came to mind was part of Col. Kurtz's speech in "Apocalypse Now":
"Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared."
I thought for sure the entire storyline was borne of this quote. I liked also its similarity to movies like "The Bad Seed" and "Turn of the Screw," in that something about his age was driving the plot, since the kid had gone to all of the previous birthday parties at his cousin's, but not now. Moral terror rears its head. I also thought the treehouse altercation might have been a slight reference to the tricycle scene in "The Omen."

Such great "anguished horror" acting throughout.

I was really affected by the setup, it was so sad! I was like "I thought this was supposed to be horror, not a Mike Leigh movie." Then when she went to the police station and "saw" the Babadook clothing there, I thought FOR SURE it was going to be some mercury poisoning or something causing both of them to hallucinate. Instead we get a kind of redemption, the social services people get a little dose of "OK, hey, looks like you got a lot going on here. Sorry we bothered you"...and the monster lives!
posted by rhizome at 10:31 PM on November 18, 2016

Rewatched this last night (first time for our kid). I think the parallels to postpartum depression and intrusive thoughts I saw the first time are there, but far removed from the experience of those things in our family, I was able to take it more for what it was actually focusing on: grief. It's still a helluva movie, one of just a handful of movies to wear the "elevated horror" tag that still works as a banger scarefest with jump scares.

The main thing I took from it on rewatch was this: Samuel is actually a good kid.

So many horror memes over the years about Samuel being the worst kid in the world! He's not. He can sort of sense something terrible coming to them and is obsessed with protecting his mother against it. He builds weapons, tries to get her to see things his way. So many people watch this and get annoyed, seemingly. But the proof is in how, once the monster actually appears, he is frantically, faithfully on her side. Because he was the whole time, just in a really flawed 7 year-old with one dead parent and one depression-impaired parent kind of way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:41 AM on March 29

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