ByLiv Foley, writer at

About halfway through “The Babadook” I was feeling a real sense of irritation, what with all the screeching and the screaming and the loud bumping noises and the crying and the wailing.

It kept going, and I kept watching — and it started to sink in: I wasn’t really irritated so much as creeped out. This film was getting under my skin.

As it's completely different to the general haunted house hours and supernatural thrillers that I've seen before, this Australian movie was somewhat different.

Amelia, a widower who works in a depressing nursing home and lives in a ramshackle house with her 6-year-old son, Sam . The boy is a precocious and clingy — prone to hugging his Mum too tightly at children’s birthday parties; terrorising other children with scary stories and sometimes with physical aggression, and violent mood swings.

One night Sam finds an oversized storybook titled “The Babadook” in the house, and he insists his Mum read it to him. Big mistake.

Illustrated in dramatic tones of black and white, with just a line or two of on each page, the pop-up book tells the tale of a monstrous, shadowy, top hat-wearing creature with skull-like features and long fingers

With each turn of the page, Amelia is increasingly disturbed, while Sam seems ever more intrigued. Amelia stops reading and places the book high on top of the self and out of sight, but Sam is already obsessed with the Babadook. The next day and every day thereafter, he’ll tell anyone he encounters about the odd creature.

A single mother still haunted by the tragic death of her husband on the day her son was born. A child whose “acting out” has reached the stage where his aunt says she won’t come to the house anymore because she can’t stand being around her own nephew. And a mysterious creature that lives in the shadows of the house — or maybe only in the psyche of the mother. Or the son, or both. You could wear out a therapist’s couch with all the psychological undertones.

Amelia finds shards of glass in her soup, but not in Sam’s. She destroys the book — but apparently the book cannot be destroyed. She goes to the police, convinced someone is stalking her, but of course they don’t believe her. The moment Everything from a visit to the police station to a drive down a quiet residential street to a little girl’s birthday party is fraught with tension. Something doesn't feel right.

As for the usual scary movie questions — e.g., why don’t they just leave the house? “The Babadook” is the kind of next-level horror movie where just because it’s daylight, that doesn’t mean the scary stuff ends and all is well until the sun goes down again.

For a long time it’s unclear whether Mister Babadook is a real monster or the figment of someone’s damaged mind. The answer comes in an extended climax both horrifying and emotionally involving.


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