Thomas Pollock’s review published on Letterboxd:
It is now close to 24 hours from I sat down to watch this, and as a horror film it floored me. For years I have been disappointed and let down by the genre, due to cheap jump-scares and excessive gore that keeps audiences coming in, but critically gets nowhere. Here we have an Australian film that combines elements of psychological horror, supernatural horror and genuine terror, and also adds poignancy to its characters.
I have read a few interpretations of the film, and one collides with my own theory. It was that the Babadook represents drug addiction, and the signs definitely show when we consider things that happen throughout the film.
My view was that it represents traumatic memory, and not moving on from the past. In our lives we don't want to think about traumatic events, but they always linger in our minds. Time sometimes can heal, but lots of the time it isn't true. Throughout the film, Amelia (the protagonist) is haunted by the memory of her dead husband and the stress begins to form into something that changes her behaviour. With interpretations in mind, that is also the point I feel of the concept of this myth-like creature. Each individual viewer will conjure up an idea of what this beast represents and symbolises. It could be by personal experience, or their visceral reaction. That is what good movies should do; be subjective to very personal/individual interpretation.
Outside her own changing behavior, there is her sons which appears as dysfunctional, violent and quite frankly crazy. She wants to help her son, and the powers that the Babadook seems to be having on the household is making her mind change.
The film is so reminiscent of other horror films, but not in a way that is boringly contrived. Essie Davis's performance in one scene reminded me so much of Jack Nicholson in The Shining when walking up the stairs shouting psychotically at Shelley Duvall (can you guess the moment?). The film also has a still atmosphere that is present in films like Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. Then there is a touch of supernatural horror when objects around the house move like The Exorcist and countless others.
What the film does most importantly is not use cheap jump-scares to scare the audience. Instead we are given brooding close-ups, chilling silence, and shadow play that create a real sense of terror. It needs to be watched to be believed, and honestly the film did have me on the edge of my seat and scared. The performance from Davis was incredible and she shows a real versatility, which if I explained would spoil the film. The film sets up brilliantly almost like a serious drama telling us the story of a woman who cannot overcome her trauma, and her struggles as a single parent. The film is often poignant, and is why the film grasps your attention when we enter the second half of the film. A great surprise of a horror film making it one of 2014's best.
If you have seen the film:
Is it just me or did the babadook sound like E.T on the phone? Jokes aside, his appearance was like a combination of a vampire, Fred Kruger and something of its own. One of the most shocking moments was the screech and sudden burst of light- and yet we never saw what was 'underneath'. I was glad it took that route as it left it to your imagination which may just have been more effective.