ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 5: The Babadook

Year: 2014

Runtime: 94 minutes

Director: Jennifer Kent

Writer: Jennifer Kent

Stars: Essie Davis

By Jenni Holtz


Jennifer Kent’s 2014 debut feature film “The Babadook” is a hauntingly beautiful tale of a depressed mother and her young son. In a lot of ways, it’s a classic ghost story, but the deeper meaning Kent infuses takes the film to the next level. Essie Davis gives a stellar performance as Amelia, a widowed single mother facing a deep depression. Her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is a point of grief for Amelia since her husband died on the way to the hospital while she was in labor. Not only is Amelia left without her partner, she is left with Samuel, a constant reminder of her husband that also looks like him. 

Samuel starts acting strangely, falling deeper into an imaginary monster narrative that eventually becomes all too real. His sleep and social life are affected, leading him and Essie to a life of isolation. Not unlike the grief haunting the pair, the monster known as the Babadook casts a shadow over their lives. 


The “Mister Babadook” book becomes the character of the Babadook, a monster with a distinctive look, but not one as scary as one would typically expect from a horror movie. The Babadook’s extremely pale skin, large eyes, and elongated fingers give him a surreal look. The film feels, at times, like it dips into a fantasy world as if the imagination of Samuel has exploded. The monster and the book he comes from are both mysterious: the book regenerates when damaged and its reason for appearing is unclear. It’s presence brings the Babadook along with it. 


When asked if Amelia was the implied author of the “Mister Babadook” book, Jennifer Kent replied that, “It was intended but never said right out. When it turns out that The Babadook is really Amelia, or that Amelia has become possessed by him, it also seems plausible that Amelia is his creator as well as his puppet.” The Babadook embodies Amelia’s grief. She can’t get rid of it no matter how hard she tries to avoid it. It creeps back into her life through her son’s obsession with it and through the book itself. 

In the end, Amelia and Samuel end up living with the Babadook, a strong metaphor for living with your demons — Amelia, in the ongoing grieving process and Samuel, too, who was born into a grieving household and has only just begun to grieve his father. With “The Babadook,” Jennifer Kent created one of the most heart-wrenching, fantastic horror films of the decade. It’s a must-watch for horror for casual viewers and diehard horror fans alike.  

The Extra Bits:

Where to watch:

Showtime (US)

Amazon rental (US and UK)

iTunes rental (US and UK)

Who to Follow:

Official Twitter: The Babadook 

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