Reely Bernie Horror Fest: The Babadook – 2014

An insecure single mother and her erratic son read a random bedtime story for children and quickly find out the book has invited a third presence in their dark, lonely home. Claustrophobic, remorseless, and brutal even to the innocent, Australian Director Jennifer Kent’s expressionistic creation doesn’t let up.

All places of comfort – a mother’s protection, the shelter under the sheets, and the denial behind closed eyes – are exploited by The Babadook, a supernatural and metaphorical phenomenon that confronts grief after death.

This is my third viewing of this horrific masterpiece, and I am convinced more and more that it is the best horror film of the last decade.

I had a similar experience as a young boy when my mom innocently checked out a “children’s book” from the library and found out – as she was reading it to me that very night – it was actually a very creepy, sinister tale that forced her to end it way before the last page…

The death of a loved one. The years of trauma afterward. Insomnia despite previous nights of insomnia.

A rotting, pulsating molar.

The unrelenting violent behavior of a child acting out. A single mother barely afloat, barely sane, hoping a bedtime story will put him to sleep.

The story chills to the bone and keeps them both up at night.

Then, as sleep finally kicks in, metal scraping sounds come from the ceiling above and thunderous pounding from the doors below.

Is this emotional grief from within, or is it tangible, raw grief clawing its way inside?

The Babadook is truly what horror – psychological and mythically monstrous – is all about. The themes are so personal and dismally real that I had to replace it with a more brainless, campier flick for my annual “Horror Night at Bernie’s” with friends and family. (So glad I watched this again beforehand – my brother-in-law wouldn’t last.)

My first viewing of Relic (2020) this year reminded me of The Babadook. Both dabble in what seems to be a new trend in haunting the viewer from under the bed with a tangible creature or an imperceptible metaphor for despair. The faint line between what is real and what is symbolic is just as terrifying as the final reveal:

The Babadook stabs on a psychological, emotional, spiritual, and even physical level. Essie Davis’s heartrending performance as a mother in torment makes Toni Colette’s role in Hereditary (2018) seem like a Disney movie. This thing is real, relatable, and not forced like an Ari Aster flick. It stays with you right before bed and right when you wake up. This is my kind of horror film.  

Final Score: 5 top-hatted boogeymen under the bed (or in your head) out of 5

All good things must come to an end. I started the “Reely Bernie Horror Fest” on September 15th, and I’m sad to see the season and spooks go back to their graves. It was a lot of fun, and I really appreciate the upbeat conversations that came with it. Contrary to popular belief, horror fans are polite, passionate, and eager to connect the darkness to the nostalgia and smiles that come with it.

Until next Halloween, enjoy the full moon and keep watching those horror movies!

PS The film I’m showing in place of The Babadook is It Follows, another extraordinary horror film from 2014. It’s a bit more conducive to an annual, friends-and-family horror night gathering. For those who seek the darker side, invite The Babadook into your home (if you dare).

18 thoughts on “Reely Bernie Horror Fest: The Babadook – 2014

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    1. Thanks, Conductor! With the spooks behind us, I guess it’s time for Oscar potential movies in November. I’m not much of a fan of the Oscars, but this is normally a good month for decent films. We’ll see. Our local movie theatre is barely hanging in there…

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  1. Well, consider yourself handsome or beautiful because that guy rocks it. (I doubt you have his earthy baritone voice though.) Yeah, Babadook isn’t everyone’s cup of tea for sure. It does stand out next to all the standard horror banalities out there, and it did frighten me at parts, which is rare. Thank you as per usual for following. The Horror Fest was lots of fun. Now, it’s about getting ready for our first baby and scrounging for any new movie that’s worth viewing at home. We are back to online teaching, and safety is priority. I hope you’re safe and healthy too right now 🙂

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  2. Lol, while I love It Follows, I disagree it’s more family and friends friendly. That movie is personal AF! And pretty icky too. Whatever. These are semantics. It’s really interesting when it comes to horror what people think are popcorn-friendly movies and what are regarded as more “serious” ones. This one however, is one badass mofo. I absolutely loved it. The kid actor in this really sells it. I haven’t been this stressed out by a kid actor in a long time.

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    1. Haha, well, you should meet my family! Yeah, it’s interesting how some horror fans yearn for jump scares, while others embrace the slow, brooding tension. My father-in-law opted for The Exorcist as a “chaser.” What a night it was last night. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you can appreciate both spooks. I hope you’re watching something creepy tonight!

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        1. Thanks, Tom. I hope you enjoyed your October and spooky Halloween. Things are getting worse here in Denver. You’re near Nashville, correct? I apologize if I got you mixed up with someone else. How are things where you live?

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          1. I used to be somewhat near Nashville yes, I lived in Knoxville for many years. Moved to New Jersey five years ago and let’s just say it is a bit better here COVID-wise now than it was back in the spring. That was some really scary stuff. Hope you all stay safe and that you get through these trying next few weeks as smoothly as possible. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy one!! 😉

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            1. COVID, election, quarantines – yes, let’s stay safe tonight. Very cool to hear about your whereabouts. I remember you did a piece on The National/Matt Berninger/Between Two Ferns. I love The National, and I didn’t know if you were from Ohio and moved to Tennessee. My wife and I are going to stick to The Mandalorian tonight and away from the tv. Best to you!

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            2. I did get to see Matt live in Nashville — in fact quite close-up. He stumbles off the stage after like glass of merlot #3 and continues to sing while he’s literally amongst the crowd. I have a blurry photo of him nearly falling on me! Haha! Such a great show.

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  3. I really liked this movie…and It Follows… You featured some great movies Bernie…This movie was good all the way through…including the ending which is RARE in horror movies.

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    1. Max, thank you for your “convos” on these new, old, good, and bad horror flicks since Sept. 15th. It’s been a fun run, and I’m glad I got these out of my system this year because I look forward to being a full time dad next year. Maybe I’ll do a Disney marathon, haha! Yah gotta embrace change. A safe, spooky Halloween to you and Bailey and the rest of your fam!

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      1. Thank you Bernie for posting them! Don’t load up the mini van yet lol. One day you will find a in between horror movie to show your child…something that is safe but a little scary…then work up from there. With Bailey it was two movies…”The Car” and “Duel”….then a little later we hit Poltergeist.

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        1. That sounds like the perfect order! Yeah, my younger days when my dad would let my best friend and I watch horror films are priceless. A gradual process 🙂 Any horror film planned for tonight?

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          1. We have a tradition…first…the funny… The Paul Lynde Halloween Special and then Halloween…the original.

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