The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film directed by Jennifer Kent in her directorial debut and produced by Kristian Moliere and Kristina Ceyton. The film stars Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear.
It is based on Kent’s 2005 short film Monster, which follows a single mother who must face her son’s fear of a monster in their home.
Kent began developing the script in 2009 with the intention of exploring parenthood and the fear of madness in the film’s story. Funding was provided through Australian Government grants and partly through crowdfunding. Filming took place in Adelaide, where Kent drew on the experience of Dogville production assistant Lars von Trier.
During filming, the crew tried to ensure that six-year-old Wiseman was protected from the film’s difficult subject matter. The title monster and special effects were created with stop motion and hand-made practical effects, and the score was composed by Jed Kurzel.
The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 17 and garnered attention in the United States and Europe, grossing $10 million against a $2 million budget. The Babadook was not initially a commercial success in Australia and was released in limited numbers in art house cinemas on 22 May 2014.
The film received critical acclaim and was one of the highest-rated films of 2014, with critics praising its horror, creature design, story, and exploration of grief. It has become a modern cult film, earning three out of six AACTA Award nominations, including Best Picture. It has maintained a following in the following years, in part due to becoming an Internet meme.
The Babadook: Movie Synopsis
Amelia Vanek is a troubled and exhausted widow living in Adelaide, Australia, raising her six-year-old son Samuel alone. Her late husband Oskar died in a car accident that occurred while driving Amelia to the hospital during childbirth. Sam begins to behave erratically: he becomes insomniac and preoccupied with an imaginary monster he has built weapons to fight. Amelia is forced to pick up her son from school after Sam brings one of the weapons there.
One night, Sam asks his mother to read him a pop-up storybook called Mr. Babadook. It features the titular monster, the Babadook, a tall, pale-faced humanoid in a clawed top hat who tortures his victims after they become aware of his existence. Amelia is concerned about the book and its mysterious appearance, while Sam becomes convinced that the Babadook is real. Sam’s insistence on the Babadook leads Amelia to have frequent sleepless nights trying to comfort him.
Soon after, strange events occur: doors open and close by themselves, strange noises are heard, and Amelia finds shards of glass in her food. She attributes the event to Sam’s behavior, but he blames the Babadook. Amelia tears up the book and disposes of it. At her birthday party, Sam’s cousin Ruby bullies Sam for not having a father, in response he pushes her out of her tree house; he breaks his nose as a result. Amelia’s sister Claire admits that she can’t stand Sam, much to Amelia’s dismay. On the way home, Sam has another vision of the Babadook and suffers a seizure, so Amelia gets some sedatives from the pediatrician.
The next morning, Amelia finds the Mister Babadook book refolded on the doorstep. The New Words taunt her by saying that the Babadook will become stronger if she continues to deny his existence, containing pop-ups saying that she killed their dog Bugsy, Sam, and then herself. Terrified, Amelia burns the book and runs to the police station after a disturbing phone call. However, Amelia has no evidence of the chase and then leaves when she sees the Babadook suit hanging behind the front desk.
That night, Amelia tries to sleep and watches as the Babadook opens her bedroom door, climbs up the ceiling, and attacks her. He then turns on all the lights in the house and Sam falls asleep downstairs. After the attack, Amelia begins to become more isolated and withdrawn, becoming impatient, yelling at Samuel for constantly ‘not listening to her, and again having frequent visions of the Babadook. Her mental state slowly deteriorates and she exhibits erratic and violent behavior, including cutting a phone line with a knife and then aggressively brandishing the same knife at Sam without her realizing it. This devolves into disturbing hallucinations in which Amelia violently murders Sam.
Shortly after these visions, Amelia sees an apparition of Oskar, who offers to return to her if she “brings him a boy”. Realizing that she is a creation of the Babadook, Amelia flees and is chased through the house by the Babadook until he finally possesses her. Under his influence, he breaks Bugsy’s neck and tries to kill Sam. Eventually, Sam lures her into the basement and knocks her out. A bound Amelia wakes up with Sam, terrified, nearby. When she tries to strangle him, he caresses her cheek lovingly, causing her to spew an inky black substance that seemingly expels the Babadook.
When Sam reminds Amelia that “you can’t get rid of the Babadook”, an invisible force pulls him into Amelia’s bedroom. After rescuing Sam, Amelia is forced by the Babadook to rewatch the vision of her husband’s death. He furiously confronts the Babadook, causing the beast to retreat into the cellar and lock the door behind him.
After this ordeal, Amelia and Sam manage to recover. Amelia is attentive and caring towards him, encouraging him about the weapons he makes, and is impressed by Sam’s magic tricks. They collect the earthworms in a bowl and Amelia takes them to the basement where the Babadook resides. He places the bowl on the floor for the Babadook to eat. However, when the beast tries to attack her, Amelia calms it down and she retreats into a corner, taking the earthworms with her. Amelia returns to the yard to celebrate Sam’s birthday.
The Babadook Ending, Explained: What Happened At The End?
Since the Babadook is a character who represents Amelia’s undeniable sadness and depression, what does that say about the ending? After her final confrontation with the Babadook, Amelia locks him in the cellar. As the story goes, you can’t get rid of him, so she and Sam are forced to allow him to take up residence in their home instead; she brings him earthworms to eat, and takes care of his basic needs while mending her relationship with her son.
Like Stephen King’s adaptation of Shining Vale, the ending of The Babadook is a commentary on how people who struggle with mental illness—especially depression—often have to live with their inner demons and afflictions by trying to contain them rather than once extinguished forever.
The Babadook came out in 2014. Almost a decade later, there is still no sequel despite some fans calling for one. However, Jennifer Kent, the Australian filmmaker behind the film, was right not to continue. The Babadook is one of those rare movies that got the ending just right and has almost zero legitimate criticism. There was closure, it was satisfying, and it avoided unnecessary cliffhanger teases (rare for any film, but especially in a genre as demanding as horror, as more recent films like The Wretched have proven).
A Babadook 2 is not planned, and most audiences and critics say it should stay that way. The understanding that developed between monster and victim at the end was touching, but a sequel would mean that the peace Amelia made with the Babadook didn’t last. Since the entire film is a metaphor for depression and learning to accept and live with these demons, turning The Babadook into a horror series would irreparably cheapen the ending and central meaning of the film.
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