A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Babadook is a horror film about a creepy children's book with terrible threats that start coming true (the title is an anagram for "a bad book"). Though it's a very well-made movie with strong characters and emotionally resonant situations, it can be very intense and frightening, especially considering that a 6-year-old boy is frequently in peril. There are nightmare sequences, knives, stabbing, and some blood and gore. The boy also makes his own anti-monster weapons. Language is infrequent, but "f--k," "s--t," "bitch" are used. The mother attempts to use a vibrator under her blankets; she moans in pleasure but is interrupted by her son. Some teen horror fans may not be interested, given the focus on a mother and son rather than on teen characters, but this is an excellent addition to the genre for fans.
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What's the story?
Single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her 6-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), have struggled to get by since Samuel's father died in an accident the day he was born. Amelia is exhausted and depressed, and Samuel is prone to destructive behavior and tantrums. Samuel also believes in monsters, and when he discovers a new pop-up children's book on his shelf, The Babadook, and his mom reads it, strange things start to happen. Amelia tries to destroy the book, but it re-appears with new pages, and the things on those pages begin to come true, too. The end of the book depicts something truly horrible, and the book warns that "you can't get rid of the Babadook." How will mother and son survive?
Is it any good?
Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent makes her feature debut with this extraordinary horror movie, one that manages to avoid most of the usual ghost cliches. It stays rooted in human fears, desires, and uncomfortable truths. It's a film that acknowledges the terror and panic that can come from parenthood, especially when one parent has to face it alone. Samuel is shown as a resourceful little man (he makes his own monster-fighting weapons), which can make him seem even more off-putting. But then he can suddenly seem like a little boy again, and his transformation is heartbreaking.
Kent's rhythms are pitched almost like little jolts of sleep, nightmares punctuated by moments of regular life. She keeps a kind of light, wry tone, and it's possible to laugh at certain desperate moments, if only because there's no other response. But the movie is also indisputably spooky and won't disappoint die-hard horror fans. It's an impressive benchmark in the genre and a most powerful debut.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Babadook's violence. How intense is it? Does it feel heightened given that it involves a young boy?
Is the movie scary? What makes a good scary movie? And why are we drawn to scary movies in the first place? What else is the movie about besides the monster?
What's the relationship between the mother and son like? What could improve it?
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