The Babadook – Jennifer Kent, 2014

“The Babadook” is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film, the feature film debut written and directed by Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent, who gained prominence in 2014 and received various acclaim and awards, particularly for direction and screenplay, as well as for addressing themes such as grief and motherhood through a horror lens.

Plot Summary

Amelia (superbly portrayed by Essie Davis), a widowed mother, is struggling with Samuel, her six-year-old son. The boy is particularly lively and seen by everyone as disturbed, obsessed with monsters. The mother seemingly manages the household dynamics in a controlled manner, building a loving relationship with her son. One day, an unsettling and violent book appears in the house, telling the tale of the arrival of the Babadook, the boogeyman. The book seems to speak directly to Amelia and Samuel: “If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” If you’re really clever and you know what it’s about, then you can make friends with the special one inside of you. Mister Babadook, don’t you dare look…”

And the Babadook will come…


Introducing the Babadook into this fragile dynamic creates an almost unbearable tension. The director knows that silence, stillness, and shadows often work much better than jump scares, and the atmosphere of discomfort in the house becomes intensely palpable. The film treads the fine line between psychological and supernatural horror for almost its entire duration, leaving the viewer wondering whether the Babadook is real or an invention of the deteriorating minds of this mother and son. Many interpretations of the film suggest that the Babadook represents the unresolved grief and suffering of the protagonist, a sort of embodiment of pain and loss: The monster that emerges from Amelia’s unresolved past and becomes a destructive force in her life.


Real-life events that inspired Babadook.
The themes addressed in Babadook seem to be extremely connected to reality, just as the menacing figure of the evil creature emerging from a storybook evokes the nightmares that often afflict children. One might even think that it was the very concepts of pain and depression that gave rise to the idea and subsequent personification of the Babadook. When asked where she got the idea for her film, director Jennifer Kent stated that she was inspired by an incident involving a single mother she knew. The woman’s daughter had claimed to be haunted by a monster she had seen in every corner of the house. This terrifying story served Kent in developing the subject of her Babadook.

Inspiration for Babadook’s design

When it came to conceiving the monster’s design, Jennifer Kent had quite clear ideas: it had to be inspired by the “king of monsters,” Lon Chaney, an American actor, director, screenwriter, and makeup artist. Chaney was one of the greatest character actors in cinema history, best remembered for his performances in horror films of the American silent film era. Among his most famous roles are the original The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Specifically, the role of Chaney that inspired Babadook’s look is from the 1927 film London After Midnight, known in Italy as The Phantom of the Castle: Lon’s massive shoulders, mass of hair, and top hat in the film are surprisingly similar to the infamous monster of Kent’s film.

One rule: Protect young Noah!

To say that Babadook is a dark film would be a mere understatement. Besides being visually terrifying, the film is a source of unease for the viewer due to the themes it addresses, themes that were never taken lightly by the director herself when it came to choosing Noah Wiseman, the young protagonist of the film. To protect him from the horrors within the story, Kent ensured that the young actor was given an extremely simplified version of the script. Additionally, Noah’s mother was present on set throughout the filming process, and Noah himself was absent when scenes were shot in which the protagonist, Essie Davis, screams at his character.

Those who worked on Babadook’s sounds cleverly decided to include within the editing nothing less than an effect from the popular video game franchise World of Warcraft: in some scenes of the film, when Babadook is in the room, you can hear the sound of dragons from the 2004 video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It may seem like a rather silly move, but try rewatching those scenes with the awareness of this detail… we’re sure it won’t seem quite so trivial!

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