Silent J’s review published on Letterboxd:
If it's in a word, or if it's in a book
You can't get rid of the Babadook.
If you're really a clever one
and know what to see
Then you can make friends with a special one
A friend of you and me
His name is Mister Babadook
And this is his book
A rumbling sound, then three sharp knocks
That's when you know he's around.
You'll see him if you look
This what he wears on top, he's funny don't you think?
See him in your room at night and you won't sleep a wink
I'll soon take off my funny disguise, take heed of what you've read
And once you see what's underneath...you're going to wish you were dead.
I watched this with some friends who told me going into it that this is an allegory for depression. I never even heard of the movie before they told me about it nor did I know anything about its premise, but hearing about the metaphor the film intended to tackle had me intrigued. This is a very rare non-traditional horror film in that the monster is something we can all relate to and I'm sure many of us have encountered at some point in our lives. Not Mister Babadook, but depression.
Depression is a monster that's hard to beat. Sometimes, you can never beat it. You just keep it locked away in a cage hidden from plain sight. On that basis alone, The Babadook is such a well done commentary on depression. The movie concerns itself more with human drama, but the horror elements are there when it comes to maintaining a creepy, disturbing atmosphere throughout. It's not necessarily "scary", but in the same vein of a similarly non-traditional horror film like Possession (1981)--which also deserves a watch if you haven't seen it--it makes the human drama more captivating and horrifying than the horror you expect to find. Not to mention the imagery is really powerful and sticks with you long after the credits roll. Not just because the look of Mr. Babadook sends a shiver down your spine, but because depression is such a major, evident theme throughout and everything that's said and seen within this movie perfectly captures what it feels like to be depressed.
I also have to give credit where credit is due to the lead actress, Essie Davis. I'm not familiar with her work (though apparently, she was in The Matrix Reloaded; I have no clue who she could have played), but she did a stellar job with this role. She really made me buy into her as a depressed mother reaching her breaking point with her son. You can tell she is just exhausted and worn out (both mentally and physically) from life and seeing what she has to overcome made her evolution/character development all the more satisfying to see. The kid deserves props too. Kid actors are usually annoying and he starts off annoying, but he's supposed to be annoying with how much he runs his mom up the wall. As the film progressed, he actually started to win me over the more I saw how prescribed meds were affecting him. Not to mention...the way he reacts in pure terror of both The Babadook and even his mom...A+ acting, kid. Best acting from a kid I've seen in any movie.
As a horror, The Babadook is solid. As an allegory for depression and a showcase of human drama, it's even more enjoyable and commendable. Either way, The Babadook is an excellent flick that grows on me the more I think about it.