The Babadook, is one of the well scripted and directed horror movies in this decade. The content of the movie informs the audience that any type of psychological disorder should be given equal emphasis as any illness with observable symptoms. Jennifer Kent, the writer/director, of the film wants her audience to understand the impact it has on people’s life. Most people often disregard the effect disorders can have; and don’t seek professional help. The movie is about creating awareness and informing the audience that mental illness should be attended properly.
In the introductory scenes, we learn that Amelia works at a home care. The job is very demanding and often times she is exhausted. She can’t come home to a peaceful bath and a delightful meal as she is a single mother. She has a young boy named Samuel. Samuel is not an ordinary child. He is always restless and anxious. Samuel is introduced as the one with some type of psychological disorder or mental incapability. He is awfully pale but very energetic, unlike his mother. Unfortunately, she has to come home from her straining job and attend his unbearable needs.
Samuel was born on the day of his father’s death. His birthday is a reminder of an awful occurrence in both of their lives. He has never celebrated his birthday on the actual date; his mother and aunt host a joint birthday party for him and his cousin. Amelia is still in grief; life has not treated her well after the death of her husband. She refuses to be reminded of the gap in her life and so she celebrates her niece’s birthday as Sam’s. Her sister tells her that her niece wants a birthday party of her own and that she wants to respect her daughter’s wish. Sadly, Amelia has to face the fact that she might have to celebrate his birthday on the actual day after all. This causes a huge distress in her mind.
Amelia doesn’t just become mentally ill. It is the result of continuous events that cause it. The first of which is the one mentioned in the previous paragraph. The fact that she may have to celebrate Samuel’s birthday on the actual day, the day she lost her husband. The second cause of distress is Samuel. It is not a surprise as he has some type of mental illness, at least that’s what she wants her audience to believe at first. He is expelled from school because of his actions. He put the lives of his classmates at risk. The fact that it was not the first time leads to his suspension.
On his cousin’s birthday, she tells him he killed his father. His father died while driving his mom to the hospital to give birth to Sam. He tells her that she’s wrong and even pushes her from the top of the trampoline they were on. His aunt has had enough of him as well and tells Amelia to stop bringing him there. This is the second source of distress; she has now lost the only family she has. Social workers knock on her door too when they discover Samuel has been suspended and is staying at home. This adds another burden to the already frustrating life she has.
Amelia is also overworked both at home and at her actual job. Her coworker always looks after her and even covers her shift. Despite his effort to help her keep her job, she finds it impossible to look after Samuel and work properly. One evening after work, Sam asks her to read him a book. He picks a book titled The Babadook. The book starts off easy but then begins to sound horrific, even to her.
“You can’t get rid of the Babadook!’she reads. It tells her the more she denies its existence, the more powerful it is going to get. She disregards its story and throws the book away. The next day she finds it lying at her doorstep. Angry and with disbelief, she burns the book. Yet again, she finds the book back in her house. Jennifer Kent’s Babadook is a representation of the mental illness Amelia has. She rejects its existence and the more she does the more it is going to be of trouble.
Amelia, unable to take care of her child, seeks professional help and begs the doctor to prescribe a depressant to Sam. She thinks her child is sick because he thinks the babadook is real. He tells her it is watching them but she doesn’t listen. She believes it is one of his weird stories. She hears its voice for the first time and is terrified. She goes to the police to report the incident but doesn’t find the help she is looking for.
The babadook keeps knocking on her door, crawling all over her place. He is very tall, very dark and makes the annoying voice- baba-dook -dook. She first rejects its existence. That is why she thinks Samuel is ill because he thinks it is real. He sees the babadook which she doesn’t. Her first reaction is to go to the police which ends up being of no use. Kent is telling the audience that it is not the police who can help her and that Amelia is asking for the wrong hand.
The first reaction of many people when faced with disorder, hallucination in Amelia’s case, is asking for police help. The reason behind it is because they dismiss the possibility of a mental illness. Everything out of the normal is not out of it for the victims. Amelia asks help from a specialist when her child tells her the babadook is real but she doesn’t for herself when she sees it. She believes her eyes, and denies that she might be mentally ill. She also denies the reality of the babadook which represents her illness and possibly the pain she carries. She denies the existence of the babadook and it becomes a bigger threat to her life. The moment she breaks free of the threat is when acknowledges its existence and fights back.
‘This is my house! You are trespassing in my house! If you touch my son again, I’ll fucking kill you!’, Amelia rants. It is when she gets over the death of her husband; it is when she celebrates Sam’s birthday on the actual date. Amelia is finally able to contain it. Kent wants her audience to know that acknowledging that one might be mentally ill is an important first step in fighting against it. She shows that people should fight psychological disorders head on and seek professional help when necessary. It is a serious concern to be taken care of properly.
- ArtsHub Australia. (2014). Box Office: Babadook ploughs ahead, escaping Australian genre woes. [online] Available at: http://screen.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/film/box-office-babadook-ploughs-ahead-escaping-australian-genre-woes-246158 [Accessed 15 Dec. 2018].