Wow. Just… Wow.
The horror in The Babadook centers on a mother’s troubled relationship with her young son. Samuel’s father died in a car crash the same day he was born and his mother Amelia is still having trouble coping with that fact almost seven years after the tragic event.
As a single working mom myself, the movie really played on my own insecurities as a mother. Certainly there are times when we all feel overwhelmed and worry about how we’re balancing the demands of motherhood and work. You’re never 100% certain you’re making the right choice. The mother in the film certainly has her plate full and then some even before things take a turn for the creepy.
Amelia is navigating her son’s troubles at school while trying to maintain her employment. The implication is that money is very tight. She’s also craving intimacy with another adult. There’s one scene in particular that rather pointedly shows your time is not your own when you’re a mom.
Samuel’s difficulty sleeping turns into Amelia’s own non-consensual insomnia, which frays her already frazzled nerves. When Amelia snaps at another mom who’s complaining that she barely has time to go to the gym, you’re almost on her side while at the same time realizing Amelia’s behavior is socially unacceptable. When she snaps at her son and later goes to him deeply contrite with an offer of ice cream, I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that I’ve also said things I immediately regretted to my son in the heat of the moment.
Certainly, things get much worse in the movie than the do in real life. Luckily my daily stresses don’t include Mister Babadook. But the slow pacing of the film and the gradual escalation of events allow for an initial overlap that is deeply unsettling and pays off big in the last third of the film. There aren’t a lot of special effects or gore, but the entire atmosphere of this movie sets you on edge. If you’re an old-school horror fan, I highly recommend this film. And I’m not alone – The Babadook has a 98% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.