It’s difficult to make a review of The Babadook short and have it capture all the emotions and complexities of the movie, but I’ll do my best. If you’re just looking for brevity, the film’s tag line basically says all you need to know: you can’t get rid of the Babadook. The film has stayed with me in the months since I first saw it, and I suspect it will remain with me forever. Hopefully I’ll explain why that is here.
The Babadook follows a mother and her son after the tragic death of her husband years prior. In lieu of summarizing the film and giving away any meaningful spoilers, I’ll just say that it is at once an allegory for grief and something else. It transcends labels of “monster movie,” or “psychological thriller,” or “allegory.” It doesn’t fall neatly into those kinds of categories, in my opinion. Instead, it pulls from each and combines the best elements into what is a pretty stellar horror film.
All of the above is vague, and I’m sorry about that. I just don’t want to give away spoilers. But I’ll tell you what I think The Babadook is truly about: I think it’s about grief over tragedies we can’t change. It’s about our condition, as humans, within an uncaring universe. We can screw things up. We can really, truly screw things up. And sometimes things can get screwed up and it isn’t anyone’s fault—but that doesn’t alleviate the anguish of being screwed up. What the film is trying to say, in my opinion, is that the way to approach grief over these bad cards we’re dealt is to try to contain it—to live with our grief in such a way that it doesn’t totally destroy you. We have to do this because we can’t undo the hurt. There is no way to go back and erase the mistakes of the past.
I also want to say that the film touches on the obvious parent-child relationship, which for me has become particularly poignant since becoming a father. Such a theme isn’t new, but it has remained a trope precisely because parental love is one of the strongest biological imperatives we humans have—if not the strongest. So while I’ve heard some talk about that narrative line being a bit too worn out in horror, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. The Babadook manages to walk the tightrope of using archetypal tropes and yet making them fresh and new and interesting.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen The Babadook, you should. I won’t tell you the specifics because you need to discover this film for yourself. Let it connect with you and I’m sure you’ll wind up captured by its message.