Okay, I was putting off this movie, honestly because my friends all warned me it was intense, but today I watched The Babadook.
Quick premise: a widowed mother of a (possibly special needs) little boy is haunted by an entity named “Mr. Babadook” after reading a sinister pop-up book that mysteriously appears in her boy’s bookshelf.
First off this book needs some major awards for the prop-master who made that pop-up book. I remember seeing some vague sillouettes in the movie promotions (like above) which all reminded me of the Hatbox Ghost from the Haunted Mansion
Instead, when I watch the movie, I get THIS nightmare fuel.
And reading up on it, I discovered that MOST of the money in the movie’s budget (which was raised via kickstarter btw!) went to the amazing artists who made this book. There was also a backer level where you could get one of 200 identical books with EXTRA pages (sadly no longer available). In addition, the set design, the Tim Burton-y interiors and very stylized color palettes bring a phenomenal level of heart to the film.
Okay, I’m done gushing over the artwork. Now I’m going to gush over Essie Davis. I recently became aware of Davis through the Miss Fisher Mysteries by ABC (AUS) and I absolutely loved her in it. She impressed me no less as Amelia in Babadook. And she made a great character for the audience to follow.
The movie makes no bones about it’s theme, which is about how grief, stress, and isolation can wreak havoc on our lives, and tarnish our souls until we’re staring in the face of madness and oblivion. Essie is a very real vessel for all of that emotion as she deals with her son’s violent and hysterical outbursts, as her friends and family start to cut her off, and she even starts to cut herself off from life by not going to work.
Anyone who’s dealt with loss, depression and/or parenthood will tap into all of these immediately, and at times the movie was a little too real, especially when the viewer is forced to confront dark truths and the voices we all keep pent up in the back of our minds.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will go so far as to say I loved it, and I agree with others that it was actually really cathartic. Unlike a recent online article, I don’t think it’s fatalist or a sign of how hopeless our world has become. I think it’s quite the opposite.
I’ll close with a fun fact, the Director of this film, Jennifer Kent, based the design of the Babadook off of a character played by the tragic Lon Chaney Sr. in “London After Midnight.” I’ll post it down here so you can watch if you like.