The Babadook: when allegory meets expressionism in a therapeutic horror classic.


You can find this article in its entirety HERE.  


“I’ll wager with you.  I’ll make a bet.  The more you deny, the stronger I get.  You start to change when I get in, The Babadook growing right under your skin.  Oh come!  Come see what’s underneath!”  – Mister Babadook


Warning: the following analysis includes spoilers!  

Early in writer/director Jennifer Kent’s Australian creeper The Babadook, widowed mother Amelia crawls onto the floor with her six year old son Samuel to check underneath his bed,  ensuring there are no monsters there before he turns in for the night.  The scene, repeated throughout the movie, has its roots in the seemingly every day life of a parent calming their child’s fears but also acts as one of the film’s many metaphors to dramatize the concept of “what lies beneath”.  Grounded in German expressionism, the film, like many great horror movies do, works on a psychological level as an allegory to convey the concept of suppression and repression, showing us the ill-effects – including cognitive dissonance – of what happens when emotions, particularly grief, have not been dealt with.

Before delving into the film further, let’s take a closer look at expressionism and allegory so we can understand how they fit into the bigger picture here.  Expressionism is at its bare essence taking the internal and making it external.  Expressionists seek to express meaning and emotional experiences – often radically to reflect mood and tone – rather than physical reality.  An allegory is used to convey complex ideas in ways that are more readily understood by an audience.  Its difference from a mere symbol is that an allegory, at least in story, is a narrative whose whole – much like a theme – has a meaning the author wishes to convey.  The use of these two together may explain why some viewers confessed to not understanding the movie (or its ending) – though to some extent, it’s a movie that’s aimed squarely at the real fears of an older audience – at least those old enough to have children of their own and suffered loss (for that’s what many of those who do will find relatable.)

We’ve found a new home!  You can read the rest of this article as well as others HERE.  



About Jim Barker

A multi-award winning sculptor who uses a pen to shape words on a page that leave impressions in the mind.
This entry was posted in Allegory, Expressionism, Techniques and Devices, Theme and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Babadook: when allegory meets expressionism in a therapeutic horror classic.

  1. Judy Myers says:

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nia says:

    Thank you for this wonderful and awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe says:

    Thanks for spelling this out. Its the most insightful review for an easily misinterpreted movie that I have found. And one that gives it MUCH deeper meaning than what is obvious on the surface. It explains the ending perfectly. I knew the movie was flirting with the concept of “is it all in her head or is it real? ” but I hadn’t considered the idea that the babadook was a metaphor for the mother and child’s repressed grief and and other negative impulses and emotions; A simple but brilliant motif for a psychological thriller. Its not a horror film in my opinion. It really wasn’t scary in any way that I associate with that genre… But it was disturbing and original.


    • Jim Barker says:

      Thanks for the comment! It is, by classical definition of the genre, a horror film, it’s just that modern audiences have been weaned more toward the visceral rather than the thematic (I’m reminded of re-watching The Bride of Frankenstein not long ago and having similar feelings, that it wasn’t scary the least bit – yet it’s still considered at the pinnacle of Hollywood horror).


  4. Are you familiar with Jungian psychology and Carl Jung’s conception of the “shadow self?” I see a LOT of that in the Babadook.


    • Jim Barker says:

      Yes, very familiar (Robert Mulligan’s subtle horror in “The Other” always comes to mind with regards to the concept); and I would agree, there’s a lot of it in here. Projection, the “unconscious” self being similar to the repressed, etc. It’s amazing how many different angles one can view “The Babadook” through.


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  9. excellent post, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector do not realize this. You must proceed your writing. I am sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

    Liked by 1 person

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