Film Review: Horror film resonates through metaphor

The Babadook received rave reviews, obtaining an average rating of 8.3 out of 10 stars on Rotten Tomatoes in addition to The Daily Beast deeming it “the Best (and Most Sincere) Horror Movie of the Year” in 2014. After watching the film, it was clear what all of the buzz was about.

The plot centers on widow Amelia and her 6-year-old son Samuel, who is a handful to say the least. Samuel displays severe behavioral issues that are caused by the fear of monsters that constantly grips him. Meanwhile, Amelia suffers from depression due to the loss of her husband, who died driving her to the hospital to give birth to her son.

Samuel has his mother read him “The Babadook” before bed one night—and this is when the action begins. The Babadook is a haunting creature that infiltrates their relationship, casting an even darker shadow over their troubled lives. When the Babadook latches on to Amelia, she seems to finally express her harshest underlying feelings toward Samuel. Things get a bit bloody, but Samuel is able to break through the monster’s hold on his mother. She gains the strength to fight and expel the Babadook not only from her body, but from her mind.

Both Amelia’s misery and Samuel’s panic were palpable elements of the film. The premise was very unconventional, though; as the Babadook itself was Amelia’s aggression and desolation. It’s a disturbing means for her to express her torment, but she was able to overcome overwhelming emotions and fight for her son.

The actors in this movie are relatively unknown, which seemed to enhance the film. Sometimes, horror movies can be more thrilling when you don’t recognize the characters from other works; that is definitely the case for The Babadook.

The only major downside of this movie was Samuel’s age. His actions were very well thought-out and mature toward the end and it seems like it would have been more appropriate if he were a couple of years older. It is highly unlikely that a 6-year-old would think to hide handmade weapons in different rooms in the house in order to fight off his deranged mother.

There are many horror films that are silly or farfetched, but The Babadook was neither—which certainly contributes to its rave reviews. The actors did not overplay their parts nor did they make thoughtless decisions—an irritating feature that seems to persistently crop up in scary movies.

The strain on Amelia and Samuel’s relationship was authentic and heart-wrenching with their bond evolving in a convincing way throughout the film. What seemed to really strengthen the movie was that it wasn’t just about a scary apparition coming to destroy them—the Babadook was a metaphor for the darkness that had consumed Amelia since the death of her husband. The fact that there was a deeper layer within the film made it more thought-provoking and compelling to watch.

If you’re a scary movie buff, this is definitely a film worth checking out. It’s suspenseful, gripping and it’s a distinct addition to the horror genre.