This 2014 Australian horror movie, written and directed by Jennifer Kent, explores all the terrifying aspects of motherhood most of us never admit.
I have been hearing a lot of buzz about the Australian movie The Babadook that described it as a horror movie. Just the other day, William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, tweeted, “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” Is it scary? Yes, very much so. But not only because The Babadook, a mythical creature from the pages of a pop-up book, comes to life in all of his lurching, shadowy, fanged and long-taloned glory, but because the movie tackles one of the most terrifying things a lot of us will experience in this lifetime — motherhood.
The mother in the movie, Amelia, lost her husband seven years ago when he was driving her to the hospital to give birth to their son, Samuel. Mother and Son are getting by the best they can; Amelia works as an orderly and her son is preoccupied with building weapons, practicing magic tricks and keeping his mother awake at night by crawling into her bed when he can’t sleep. One night they discover a book on his shelf they have never seen before and that’s when things get creepy, because it tells the tale of Mister Babadook, who appears and torments the reader of the book indefinitely. I won’t spoil what happens next, but you owe it to yourself, whether you have kids or never want kids, to see this movie.
Being a mom is terrifying. Whether you are dealing with a precocious child who is having trouble in school, the lack of sleep due to trying to do it all, feeling pulled in numerous directions or the bigger issues that Amelia faces in the movie — being a widow and dealing with seven years of postpartum depression, having a kid is scary. There are times when many of us who are mothers hate our children. Sure, we love them to death but on especially bad days we have all fantasized about what life would be like without them, and in Amelia’s case, pulling a Medea and killing them. These are all the dark places where moms are afraid to admit our minds go, which is why The Babadook is so brave and fascinating. It’s the first movie since Rosemary’s Baby that honestly tackles how truly frightening motherhood is.
At the heart of it, The Babadook is a movie about sacrifice, about loving your kid enough to protect them from the worst parts of you and locking away those parts in the basement where they can be hidden, feasting on worms and calmed with the reassurance that “everything will be OK.” It’s a movie about a mother’s love being able to conquer the demon that lives inside her, the demon that just wants a good night’s sleep and the privacy to masturbate alone on occasion and has to deal with a kid who may be at best, merely rambunctious, and at worse, harboring greater mental issues. It’s about what happens when trying to do it all alone manifests itself in a monster, and that monster threatens to eat us and the ones we love. It’s about how scary being a mom really is.