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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