Geek Highs & Lows of 2014: ‘The Babadook’


The Babadook was released to much critical acclaim. It’s the story of Amelia, a widowed single parent, and her troubled son, Sam. Sam has behavioural problems and seems to suffer night-terrors, rarely sleeping through the night and in turn disturbing the sleep of his mother. One night Sam finds a book on his bookshelf, telling the story of the titular Babadook. The rhyming pop-up book is about a creature, that when you are aware of it, there is no escaping it. As you can imagine, this does wonders for her already messed up kid. He becomes obsessed with the story and all his issues become about the Babadook, and things start to happen in the house, which Sam attributes to the creature and Amelia thinks is down to Sam acting out. Sam’s behaviour and Amelia’s lack of sleep ramps up the tension between the two in a film set on creating uncertainty around whether the cause of the disturbances is the boy, the mother, or the Babadook…

The whole ‘is it the kid or a monster’ trope is the approach of many a horror film and despite that it can still be played effectively. This film adds the mother into the mix as a suspect, and while it certainly heightened the paranoia around the source of the torment, for me and my other half though, the plot became so ambiguous as to be inscrutable, and a film that doesn’t obey the logic or rules that goes with who or what could be responsible for the horror.

Spoilers ahead… I began to think it was all about the mother’s delusions, after all she’s clearly suffering mentally from having to raise and provide for a kid alone, and ask with sleep deprivation. There is a line in the movie that gives away that Amelia used to write children’s books, and later she has black hands, and although this comes straight after her burning the book, the book seems to be drawn with charcoals, so she could’ve been working her fears into the book in some disassociative state, and then experiencing the end result as some disturbing external torment–so, it seemed to be a psychological horror…

That is until Amelia dumps the book and it turns up again, so, unless she retrieved it or it’s a second copy she’s knocked up this would suggest it’s a supernatural threat. Later, Amelia vomits up some black stuff exorcist style, which suggests she’s expelling the dark force within her. But then, Sam is dragged up the stairs by some invisible force, which Amelia faces off against–so it’s an external supernatural threat?! Then, at the very end, the pair of them seem to have this invisible force restrained in the basement… Like a pet.

I’ve sat through some rubbish in my time and managed to get something from the experience. This film though, it left me cold. It held zero scares and tension for me. In fact, it bored me senseless. Presented in a detached manner, which I can only think due to the direction,  and in a palette of charcoal, grey, and blue grey ‘colours’, which the whole house is decorated and furnished in, the film was an unstimulating bore and a chore to sit through.

If it wasn’t for the fact that we were at the cinema, I would’ve given up on it. Yeah nothing like a bad film experience made worse by paying £20 for the experience. I guess I should’ve known what this film would be like when I heard of the critical acclaim. It seems like critical acclaim comes with an emperor’s new clothes effect–I do not understand the love this film gets across the Internet. After all the unfathomably positive reviews and having looked forward to a good horror I was left bored and bemused. This was the lowest geek low of 2014.

Am I the only ones to think this?


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