Student Feature: Roundtable Reviews of “The Babadook”

Found below are three reviews of the 2014 Australian horror film, The Babadook, written by Lewis University students Michael Freeman, Darlyn Olivares, and Kayla Rada.

*Spoilers ahead*

Michael Freeman:

The Babadook is a terrifyingly stunning film that treats its audience to the minimalistic mundanity of a single parent household while descending into the depths of despair and grief-stricken fear that only an unseen force can create. It is a film with simplicity in its art direction, yet the complexity within its story and angular shots leads us, the audience, to further understand how destructive, beautiful, and horrifying our own denial and repression of memories can be. Using our childlike sense of wonder and imagination through the use of a storybook, we see the unraveling and torment of a tapped-out mother dealing with the uncontrolled problems of her past trauma and, now, with her own son. The music in this film provides a sense of eeriness as if we have heard the faint chime or the grumbling growl that crescendos as we get closer to the source.

The Babadook throws its audience into an emotional and mental meat grinder from start to finish. We are enthralled by the disturbance of this family ordeal and will stop at nothing, as the characters do, to look for closure. And yet, even though we may not receive an explicit resolution upon the film’s ending, we are left with a hopeful and subtle conclusion that leaves a bittersweet fulfillment. Jennifer Kent, the writer and director of this truly wonderful film, deserves the accolades for this stunning display of hope.

Darlyn Olivares:

The Babadook brings to life the feelings and emotions that we as humans try to shove in the back of the closet of our lives, hoping simply to forget them and often acting like they don’t exist. Death and depression are all too common, but what people don’t realize is that depression doesn’t always materialize immediately, nor is it forgotten in an instant. Through the initial use of dull gray and blue colors, The Babadook establishes a sense that there is a looming emotion that we haven’t yet placed our finger on, but are aware it’s there. The real-life monster of depression takes a horrifying form in this film, and because it’s made into something visceral and physical that we can see, we believe it’s real — unlike our world, where if it’s not seen to the naked eye, it’s not there.

Although the film is slow to start, lulling you to believe that this might be a plodding and boring ride, Amelia’s (Essie Davis) portrayal of just how manic, distorted, and out of tune with reality one can become with grief replaces any sense of boredom with edge-of-your-seat anticipation of what’s to come next. This movie isn’t for those wanting jump scares and cheap thrills, but for those willing to see beyond what’s being presented and realizing that monsters won’t always just be living under the bed, but inside you. They won’t always go away once the sun rises. They’ll continue to knock on your door, waiting for you to let them in.

Kayla Rada:

How far can the love between a mother and son go? In The Babadook, Amelia (Essie Davis) and Samuel (Noah Wiseman) must trust each other in order to banish this evil from their bodies.

The Babadook is a beautifully crafted film directed by Jennifer Kent, whose use of a simple yet brilliant set makes the horror on display even more real. The film takes place mainly within the family’s home, making the events that much more personal and palpable. Their home reflects the grief that Amelia still feels for her husband’s death. The grayscale of the walls, as well as the locked basement which contains the husband’s belongings, emphasizes Amelia’s inability to move on. Kent’s use of shadows and low-key lighting makes the audience anticipate what could be lurking in the shadows, effectively building suspense for the audience and feeding on everyone’s common fear of the dark.

Kent cleverly uses the “monster” — the Babadook — as an allegory for Amelia’s grief for her deceased husband. The Babadook feeds off of Amelia’s internal conflict of both loving and blaming her son. This inner struggle becomes apparent when the Babadook takes over her body and she is no longer a loving mother. Instead, she verbalizes her blame on Samuel, and from then on must overcome her new urge to harm her son. Amelia’s love for Samuel and Samuel’s love for his mother is what saves them both and strengthens their bond with one another, making the horror film The Babadook, ultimately, a movie about mother-child conflicts and connections.


Michael Freeman

Michael Freeman is a senior at Lewis University studying exercise and movement science. His after-college plan is to earn a PhD within the field of biomedical research and further his education toward becoming a stem-cellular regenerative medicine researcher. He loves going to see the latest movies, but barely has time to go see them.  He has an eclectic love of all things: music, art, and film/television. Only recently has he truly started to enjoy horror films, even if they make him cower in his seat. Outside of studying, he will likely be located in the physics department hanging out with friends, blasting music around Lewis, or re-reading Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Darlyn Olivares

Darlyn Olivares’s name is pronounced ‘Dar-LEEN,’ not ‘Dar-LIN,’ but she’ll respond to both. She is from El Salvador and Nicaragua, two small countries in Central America. Currently, she is a junior in Lewis University’s nursing program. After nursing school, she plans on working in a pediatrics unit or NICU before attending grad school to become a nurse anesthetist. When she’s not drowning in nursing books, her hobbies include traveling, eating, and catching up on sleep when she can. She also loves to binge watch shows she’s already watched ten times on Netflix like The Office and Friends. Her favorite films include Inception, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Black Panther to name a few. During the summer, she plans on visiting as many states as she can, starting with New York.  

Kayla Rada

Kayla Rada is a biology major with a pre-veterinary medicine focus. She will be graduating from Lewis University this coming May and will be one step closer to becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine. She gets to do what she loves every day at Archer Veterinary Clinic as a veterinarian and lab technician. She would like to finish her education at University of Wisconsin in Madison. Her heavy work and school load don’t provide her much room for hobbies, but any chance she gets, she loves to do anything that gets her adrenaline pumping: cliff jumping, bungee jumping, and soon, skydiving. This spring break she was able to summit the Smoky Mountains, which was an 11-mile hike that took six hours. She can wholeheartedly say the view was life-changing, and definitely worth the climb! Film-wise, she is trying to catch up on classic movies, but by far, her favorite genre of film would definitely be horror.

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