A single mother struggles with her son, who has some kind of unspecified personality disorder. He has trouble sleeping, making friends, telling fantasy from reality, that kind of stuff. Everyone ostracizes the woman because they can't stand her son, and the woman herself is almost at the breaking point. One day, her son asks her to read him a book about a monster called "The Babadook". After that, it seems as though the monster really has infiltrated their lives, and he sure isn't nice ...
Please note that "Babadook" is pronounced to rhyme with "book". Until I watched the movie, I'd thought it was pronounced to rhyme with "duke". Personally, I think it sounds stupid with the short "oo" sound, enough to actually detract from the entire movie. Yes, it's a hell of a nitpick, but it bugged the s**t out of me every time someone said the monster's name.
This is really a movie about a widow cracking from the stress caused by her difficult child. The Babadook is simply a metaphor for her darkest escape fantasy. I was actually impressed with The Babadook, because it looked as though it was shaping up to be one of those "all in her head" movies but it was actually working! Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have the balls to follow through on its premise. She does eventually try to kill the kid, but the power of love or some crap saves him. The Babadook monster apparently is a real thing, or else the woman is still nuts, because it continues to exist in her basement after the power of love drives it out of her, weakened but not vanquished. (She feeds it table scraps!) The happy ending screams false because, until then, the movie had done such a great job of conveying just how astoundingly crappy the woman's life is because of her kid (and how strong the Babadook's hold on her was, I guess, but remember I'd managed to convince myself it wasn't an independent entity). Going back on it seems less like how the story was intended and more like someone didn't think the movie would make any money if it had such a downer ending.
The Babadook itself is ... Tom Baker's Dr. Who, with Orlok's claws. No, really. It has a hat and a big scarf, just like the Fourth Doctor, and long fingers sporting huge claws that it constantly keeps splayed out at waist height, just like Orlok. Oh, and it does that thing every movie ghost/monster/whatever does in modern films, where it slowly creeps forward then *eek* the editor skips a few frames to make it look like the monster suddenly surged forward into the camera. You just might be thinking I didn't find the monster very impressive. You'd be right, but I haven't told you what else the Babadook does to consign it that extra-special class of crappy monsters. The noises it makes ... are taken from Doom. Not even the new Doom, the original. I honestly could not believe it when I heard it. It makes the same hiss the Imps did, and even the zombie Space Marine growl. That's just, wow. I mean, wow.
I wanted to like The Babadook, I really did, and I respect what it was trying to do. I even understand why they put in a semi-happy ending. However, I feel as though it really needed to have the ugly, dark ending it was building up to. That would have given it the punch to stick with anyone who saw it for years, maybe forever. That's what horror is supposed to be about.