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The Babadook

also known as “Babaduk,” “Der Babadook,” “Karabasan,” “Mister,” “O Senhor Babadook”

Reviewed by: Gabriel Mohler

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Older Teens
Horror Suspense Drama
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 17, 2014 (festival)
November 28, 2014 (limited)
DVD: April 14, 2015
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Featuring Essie Davis … Amelia
Noah Wiseman … Samuel
Hayley McElhinney … Claire
Daniel Henshall … Robbie
Barbara West … Mrs. Roach
Benjamin Winspear (Ben Winspear) … Oskar
Chloe Hurn … Ruby
Jacquy Phillips (Jacqy Phillips) … Beverly
Bridget Walters … Norma
See all »
Director Jennifer Kent
Producer Screen Australia
Causeway Films
The South Australian Film Corporation
Smoking Gun Productions
Entertainment One
Distributor IFC Films

“The Babadook” is a film I saw last year that deserved way more attention than it got. It did get five awards, and it does have 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, but most of the general public pretty much passed over it. This is the kind of horror film that I wish would be the new talk of the town, as opposed to the latest “Paranormal Activity” installment or Wes Craven remake. Not only does it have rare depth for a horror house movie, but it’s also surprisingly clean—compared not only to most horror movies, but most movies in general.

I like the atmospheric horror genre, but am often disappointed to find occultism tied into it. There are plenty of movies that I appreciate for their abstinence from blood and guts, but can’t recommend due to occultism. (For example, after two pretty good movies, “Insidious: Chapter 3” let me down this year.) But “The Babadook” is different. The story was inspired by the mindless fears that many little kids have. The author wanted to create a story in which one of these monsters was real. The scariness of this film is almost entirely atmospheric; I only remember one jump-scare. Despite this, and the lack of gore, “The Babadook” is an effectively frightening film.

Amelia (Essie Davis), bereaved of her husband some years ago, is having a hard time raising her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Samuel has an obsessive fear that something evil will try to hurt him and his mother, and resolves to protect them. One day, a mysterious book appears on their shelf about a creepy creature called the babadook. After this, Samuel becomes more certain that they are in danger, and Amelia becomes more angry in denying it.

The mysterious book has a few death scenes, one including blood, but it’s all done in cheesy cartoon style. Amelia sees a brief vision of Samuel with blood on his face and shirt. Near the end of the film, there is some ambiguity. It’s hard to tell whether the babadook has taken over Amelia’s mind, is disguising itself as Amelia, or if it’s all just a dream. Regardless of what’s going on, Samuel defends himself against the false Amelia with homemade weapons.

No blood is shown. Amelia breaks a dog’s neck offscreen. She frees herself from the babadook’s power by vomiting a black liquid. A murder report is heard on TV, but nothing is shown. There is a car crash, but no one gets hurt. Oh, and there’s one scene where a girl teases Samuel about his father’s death, so he pushes her out of the treehouse, giving her a bloody nose. (That wasn’t the most God-honoring way for him to react, but, I have to admit, I liked seeing the girl get taught a lesson.)

Profanity is refreshingly scant. There is only one misuse of God’s name, two S-words, and one B-word. Amelia tells the babadook “If you touch my son, I’ll f***ing kill you!” This is not a British film, but our British brethren will want to be cautioned of two uses of “bloody.” The only potential sexual content is when Amelia is seen panting in bed with a vibrator, under the covers.

Samuel and his mother have struggles, but it can never be doubted that they love each other very much and are thankful for each other. (That said, Samuel is dishonoring a few times.)

The acting is VERY convincing, and the audience can’t help but deeply care about the characters. Though terrified of the unknown, Amelia and Samuel both display inspiring courage. Nothing can scare them out of protecting each other. In my opinion, the most satisfying thing about this film is actually how the mother and son resolve their strained relationship; it’s beautiful to see everything put right again.

“The Babadook” is not rated, but if it were, it could have a PG-13. It has less disturbing content than “Poltergeist” (the original), but it’s much darker. The ending is unusual, but it will suffice to say that evil does not win over good. IMDB recommends it for 15 and up, which I think is wise. This movie doesn’t disappoint, and is very memorable. All that’s left to say is that if you like movies that rattle your nerves, you’re in for a treat.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Movie Critics
…One of the strongest, most effective horror films of recent years —…imparts a lingering sense of dread that will stay with you for days — and will definitely come to mind the next time you wake up in the middle of the night wondering what that scratching noise was. …
Kim Newman, Empire [UK]
…in my opinion, the finest and most genuinely provocative horror movie to emerge in this still very-new century…
Glenn Kenny for
…accomplished and imaginative psychological horror tale… a wonderfully hand-crafted spin on a tale oft told, of parent and child in an old, dark house where things go bump (and scratch and growl and hover in the shadows) in the night. …
Scott Foundas, Variety
…a superbly acted, chilling Freudian thriller… clever, nasty, clammily claustrophobic chiller… “The Babadook” leaves behind it a satisfyingly toxic residue of fear.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)
…deeply chilling …you’ll scare because you care…
Mark Kermode, The Observer
…Truly scary “The Babadook” is best horror movie in years… so disturbing it resonates well after it is viewed. …
L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star
…The brilliance of “The Babadook,” beyond Ms. Kent’s skillful deployment of the tried-and-true visual and aural techniques of movie horror, lies in its interlocking ambiguities. …
A.O. Scott, The New York Times
…smart and dark, delivers grown-up horrors… The film is quite serious about pushing its players and its audiences through the mental, as well as emotional, meat grinder. …
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
…Managing to scare an audience silly with original imagery and non-formulaic jolts is no mean feat at a time when the horror genre has become a largely self-plagiarising, cannibal entity. Managing to move us at the same time is close to miraculous. “The Babadook”… achieves both, in a layered, thoughtful, cumulative way that switches your dread from a focus on the bogeyman to the human psyche, then wavers between them, wobbling on a knife-edge. …
Tim Robey, The Telegraph [UK]
…Heart-pounding horror just a hair too tidy… too deliberately calibrated to prove truly terrifying…
John Semley, The Globe and Mail

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