Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review and Ending Explanation: The Babadook

Copyright: Causeway Films
Being that 2014 is almost done, and I am not expecting any revolutionary new horror films, I can (almost) safely say that in my opinion, The Babadook is the best movie in this genre in the last 12 months. As a simple story, it delivers its punch right in the beating heart of terror with stunning precision, wherever that subconscious center might be.

Jennifer Kent directed this film, who is better known as an actress than a director. As a first time feature film, her directorial debut is pure horror shock and awe in the best possible way. Kent obviously understands art as a form of presenting content and emotion with as little noise or additional elements as possible. That is the reason why she made, first and foremost, an extremely elegant film that fits together like a brilliant architectural design. While I watched it, I had no inkling to fantasize about changing anything, and so far in this year, only Fury managed to lure me so effectively in its universe.

The Babadook offers a simple story about an emotionally tormented single mother Amelia, who is still haunted by the death of her husband on the eve of her giving birth to their son Samuel. Now, seven years on, Sam has a hard time fitting in with other children, and Amelia barely manages to balance her work and his needs. One night, she reads him a book called the Babadook, unknowing that it will summon a terrifying experience involving a shadowy creature with long pointy fingers and a top hat. Similar to Annabelle, the film bases its horror on children's accessories, in this case a pop-up book, and delivers a terrifying effect.

Kent knew perfectly well the aces in her hand, and she plays them mercilessly, to the joy of everyone who loves a great horror setup. Both Noah Wiseman and Essie Davis are brilliant as son and mother, and both impress in different stages. Wiseman works incredibly well for his young age, and Davis successfully transforms her character in a sudden, almost demonic fashion that aids the broader narrative perfectly.

The same tight control and deliver is seen in many individual shots in the film, where a depressing, somber home of the duo is shown. In gray, dirty white and blue colors, the house is the ideal stage for deep, ink-black shadows where things that knock three times lie in wait. The same is true for the Babadook book, which alone had the power to creep me out thoroughly. At the same time, Kent very smartly keeps the character count minimal, and decreasing as time progresses. The struggle in the Babadook is on Amelia’s and Sam’s alone, making it even more frightening.

The Conjuring really impressed me in 2013 as the horror which defined that year. I can say that this film did the same for 2014, but left an even stronger impression.

The Babadook Ending Explained

Spoiler Alert

For me, the explanation of the final sequence is relatively simple, and works as an analogy of Amelia’s emotional turbulence. The Babadook represents the torment of the mother, and her inability to resolve the feelings of the loss of her husband. As the book states, “the more you deny me, the stronger I get”, so does Amelia’s unreadiness to find closure continue to grow and even threaten her child in a case of a suicidal willingness to stop the emotional pain she feels.

Accepting this burden, which takes place in the final showdown, presents her personal transformation. She touches the hat, meaning she will not let it go, but as the spirit descends into the basement, Amelia accepts that it needs to be stored where it belongs – with memories, not with everyday life. It is still there, but she and Sam can live with it.

The last thing in this Babadook ending explanation is the bowl of worms. The last shot of feeding the Babadook worms that Sam dug up can be interpreted as the final, macabre proof that now Amelia knows where her husband really belongs – in the ground, were these creatures reside. If you have your own take on the ending of the Babadook, feel free to leave a comment.

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16 comments:

  1. Interesting take on the film, one which I more or less entirely agree with. What do you think the roaches and the elderly Mrs. "Roach" character have to do with it all?

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    1. Hey, thanks for reading the review and I'm glad you'll like it! Honestly, I didn't even notice the name of Mrs. Roach :) But the roaches in general I saw as the symbolism for the Amelia’s dark, tired side (who is often angry at her son and her husband for leaving her, although involuntary) which begin to creep out from the depths of her subconsciousness (which Babadook actually is, allowing the dark side to come out). While this happens, roaches come out from the dark spaces of the house. At the end, she embraces it and accepts that it's a part of her, but not a part that can rule over her.

      But maybe there is a much more coherent explanation with their elderly neighbor :)

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  2. I found myself disagreeing with the film's psychological content... a few reviewers quoted Jung for his thoughts on the 'shadow' in the self... but I disagree that we have to spend energy on it ('face the monster'). I think it can be as wise, if not even wiser, to think of 'the monster' as a mechanism that loops on itself... so when she gives it attention, it grows in her mind... and she becomes even more frightened or whatever... if she simply trusts that her brain can grow in other directions, and let herself be free to do that, she doesn't have to force any denial... the brain will change and adapt to the changes... I think the movie told a different story, where she has to let 'the monster' grow. Those curious about my thoughts can google "brain plasticity" or "science of meditation". Maybe she could simply have meditated her way out of her grief.

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    1. Humanistic psychology teaches us that the way we can exit a particular emotional state is by accepting it and the idea that is now a part of our experience, but not the only element of the same experience. Getting looped into an emotion is the result of denial and/or giving into it. :)

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  3. What about the tooth ache?

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    1. Honestly, I do not even remember that anyone in the film had a tooth ache. Did Amelia struggle with it in some point (or even pulled out one of her teeth?

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    2. After she killed the dog, she pulled out her own tooth.

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    3. OK, I remember that now, but I can't say what could that mean. Possibly the idea that her life, like her body, is falling apart.

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  4. Losing teeth in dream interpretation means losing control. I think her pulling out the tooth means she finally lost control....in killing the dog. The aching symbolized madness nagging at her....until she literally lost it.

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    1. Makes sense. The dog killing moment is definitely a milestone on her agonizing road to madness. The final one is the possible murder of her own son. The loss of teeth could also mean that she is literally loosing herself as well.

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  5. At Claire's daughter party it is revealed that Amelia used to be a writer. Maybe it's possible that the book actually existed and was written by her, or it could represent her frustration at having quit writing cause of her grief.

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    1. The notion that Amelia wrote the book is really interesting - it could be interpreted as an unsuccessful attempt of containing her grief into something material.

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    2. She absolutely wrote the book. If you recall when she went to the Police her hands were stained with the chalk she used to illustrate it.

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    3. She absolutely wrote the book. If you recall when she went to the Police her hands were stained with the chalk she used to illustrate it.

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    4. Hmm, interesting, I overlooked that detail. But how does that play into her later on burning the book? Is that meant to be symbolic or did she really do it?

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  6. babadook is an anogram of a bad book. and what if the book was a book of photos of her husband and thats why everything started up

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