This excellent horror film is a fresh and artistic look at the age old Man vs. Self conflict in narrative. It’s difficult to find new characters to pit against each other in our modern era of storytelling, but here it’s a mother and a son who are given the task of making it through this film alive. In Man vs. Self the story derives from the conflicting goals of characters.
Here we have a widowed working mother and a troubled son. Their lives are routine, and that routine ends nightly with Mom reading a book. One night, Samuel (the son) picks a book called Mr. Babadook. After that, the movie becomes a slow, free-fall into the dark side of…something. It could be possession, ghost story, psychosis, or depression. The beauty of this film is the fine line it walks.
We see a mother fighting to overcome the depression of losing her husband on the same day she gave birth to her son…even seven years later. We see a son who has some deep behavior issues, not very sympathetic at the beginning, but towards the end quite the hero. The kid just wants to feel safe. The mom seems to just want a night’s uninterrupted sleep.
For me, Mr. Babadook is a metaphor for the way depression can take hold of the mind. The Mom slowly descends into acts unimaginable. It takes Samuel to pull her back each time, even after some unthinkable things she does to him. I would settle for the metaphor, but the film’s director/writer doesn’t let us off so easily. The ending is truly creepy and unresolved, but not in the we’re-starting-a-horror-movie-franchise kind of way. To become the caretaker of the very thing that has tormented you is completely metaphoric for dealing with depression.