Welcome to Will Mom Like This?, an exploration into the trials and tribulations of sharing your favorite scary movies with family. Sharing movies with loved ones is a beautiful thing. As beautiful as it is, I think we have all experienced moments so uncomfortable you wish the couch would swallow you whole. In this new monthly column, I’m going to try and help you avoid that as much as possible. My hope is that this will work as a sort of guide for you to know when you should excuse yourself to refill the popcorn bowl and avoid the wrath of a disgruntled or disgusted parent. Be warned, we will be discussing a lot of plot spoilers but only so we don’t spoil a perfectly good evening with your folks.
My mom has had a rough go of it the past couple of months, largely due to me intentionally choosing movies that I know she’ll hate. Given that the holidays are coming up, I’ve made it my mission to choose (at least a couple) movies that I sincerely think she’ll enjoy. Alas…I have been wrong before. But you know what they say, try try again! So that brings us to Monster Mash month at Nightmare on Film Street, and I figured how could we go wrong with one of my all time favorite monster movies, The Babadook (2014) directed by Jennifer Kent. Read on to find out if I got the success story I dreamed of.
The Babadook tells the story of a single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), grieving the death of her husband years after the accident that killed him, as a storybook monster torments her and her young son. It feels worth mentioning that The Babadook is a really scary movie. My mom was definitely feeling this as much as I was. Typically, she doesn’t have much patience for any movie that is a slow burn like this one, but I knew we had something special with The Babadook when she didn’t snore or boo within the first ten minutes.
The introduction of the actual storybook containing the Babadook (Tim Purcell) feels like a big turning point in the movie as we plunge headfirst into scary time and don’t look back. My mom was super creeped out by the book itself (with good reason) and was really hoping the characters would choose a different bedtime story. “Ever heard of Goodnight Moon?” After getting seriously bad vibes from the storybook, Amelia burns it in a barbecue to get rid of it, only to have it appear fully intact at her doorstep. My mom screamed out loud at this. There was no jump scare, no loud noise, just a book, and that produced a full body scream from my mom, which I delighted in.
That’s not to say there aren’t any jump scares in The Babadook, because boy oh boy there are some jump scares and each one got us so good. As expected, my mom did her best to relieve some of the tension with her comedic stylings, yelling things like “You done got Babadooked” as we were coming down from a big scare. Bless her. Other times however, she was not able to mask her terror. I caught her hiding her face in her shirt on multiple occasions, and in the movie’s last act, she admitted to having a stress headache and hives. Perhaps we were the ones who got Babadooked.
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I was worried that my plan for an enjoyable movie watching experience had been dashed when within one of the first scenes she said “this kid is weird,” and I said “oh boy.” For those who haven’t seen The Babadook before, Amelia‘s son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), exhibits several behavioral issues that get him in lots of trouble at school and lead to several lengthy outbursts throughout the film. I knew that if she was having a hard time putting up with him when all he was doing was building weapons to fight his “imaginary” monster, she would not have a good time with him for the remainder of the movie.
Turns out I was only a little bit wrong. The next thing my mom took issue with regarding Samuel was his affinity for magic tricks. I was unable to pinpoint exactly why, but anytime he began one of his magic routines, she would sigh loudly, roll her eyes and tell me how glad she was that I never got into magic. Perhaps there’s some unresolved trauma with a child magician that I am not privy to, but whatever it was highly disturbed her.
“[…] The Babadook is a really scary movie. My mom was definitely feeling this as much as I was.“
My mom also took issue with what she perceived as a lack of discipline with Samuel when he would frequently misbehave. Keep in mind that my mom works with children every day, molding young minds and helping them figure out how to navigate the world, so I imagine some of this hitting close to home. There’s one scene in which Amelia is slowly being taken over by the Babadook and Samuel keeps asking for food to which she replies “If you’re that hungry why don’t you go eat shit,” and I swear to you all I have never in my life heard my mom laugh that hard. She was howling for a good amount of time after the line was delivered and told me that it did her heart good. I’m so glad this movie was able to give her that moment.
Ultimately, I do think my mom had a somewhat profound experience with the character of Samuel because by the end of the movie she loved him. There’s one moment in particular where he outsmarts the Babadook using sleight of hand and I caught her actually applauding his use of magic coming in handy. She also made an abrupt switch to commenting on how cute and smart he was and she was sincerely rooting for him. It’s such a testament to the writing of this movie that she was able to go on that journey with this character and it was really fun to see.
Surprised to see a sexual situations category in a discussion about The Babadook? Me too, but this moment was so outrageous, it needs to be addressed. In a super brief scene, Amelia has a rare moment to herself and breaks out a vibrator from her bedside drawer. It’s nothing too scandalous, but the vibrator is pretty loud, and my mom and I are children so it made us giggle, but I thought that would be the end of that. Well dear reader, I was proven so very wrong when my mom hummed in disapproval and said “mother’s little helper.” I paused the movie. I demanded that she explain, and she said “you know, the vibrator.” Feeling a bit hot under the collar, I assured her I understood the correlation, but that I had never heard that euphemism used before, let alone from my mother. To which she responded “you picked the movie, I get to say what I want.” I couldn’t argue with her there.
Blood, Guts, & General Violence
Perhaps unexpectedly, The Babadook does not feature a large amount of blood or gore, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of violence in this movie. In a ruthless turn of events, at a birthday party, Samuel pushes a little girl out of a tree house, breaking her nose in multiple places. You would’ve thought we were watching America’s Funniest Home Videos from the delight my mom got watching that small child plummet to the ground.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the violence in The Babadook was not as fun for her. Spoiler incoming, but there’s a really upsetting killing of a dog in this movie and my mom let me know she was VERY not okay with it. She was mad at me! As if I had killed the dog, or had written the movie in which the dog dies. But I understand, it’s an awful thing to watch and you have to take all those feelings out on someone. The dog dying is also very quickly followed by someone pulling their own tooth out, which did not help matters any. This had my mom screaming “No teeth! No teeth!” repeatedly.
While I always try to assemble the moments my mom has a bad time with in the groups above, some instances are so unique they require their own category. Please see below for such singular issues.
- Creepy crawlies: there’s simply roaches everywhere at one point in this film
- No humor: “She’s so dreary”
- Absolutely hated the ending and would not stop telling me so for days after we finished the movie
- When asked if she knew that the Babadook was a gay icon she said “good for him,” but seemed unfazed.
But Did Mom Like It?
So the time came to ask the question, did Mom like that? And folks, today calls for a celebration because Mom liked that! The Babadook is a really powerful movie with great performances that tackles themes like grief and depression through the lens of a monster movie so effectively, and on top of that it seems to be crowd pleaser. Even for my mother who is usually never big on movies that take their time showing their hand like this one. I’m still going to say 4/5 moms would recommend almost entirely because of how much she hated the ending. I’ve seen that response from a lot of people who have seen the movie, so I can understand her perspective on that front. Now my next personal challenge with Will Mom Like This will be topping The Babadook in terms of overall enjoyment. Wish me luck.
Would you ever watch The Babadook with your mom? I think you should! So long as she doesn’t get any ideas about going on a murderous rampage through your home. Let us know what scary movie you have always wanted to watch with your parents over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit. and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. We’ll do our best to give you a heads up of everything you’ll want to avoid, but don’t blame us if they disown you!