What Does The Ending Of The Babadook Really Mean?

If you’ve just finished watching the psychological horror film The Babadook, then you may find yourself having a few unanswered questions. Was there really a creature at all? What exactly happened? And worst of all, what was up with those worms at the end? Well, let’s try to work through this together shall we? It should go without saying, giving the title of the article, but a SPOILER ALERT is in full effect!

Leading up to the anniversary of her husband’s death, the depressed and emotional Amelia (played by Essie Davis) begins to sense a disturbing presence stalking her and her son Samuel (played by Noah Wiseman) after reading a mysterious pop-up children’s storybook titled “Mister Babadook.”

What’s immediately striking about this film is its persistence on ambiguity. As a horror film it comes across as a very frightening lullaby. On the other hand, the film will most likely not sit well with many fans of the genre because of its departure from traditional dramatic scares and generic imagery. Instead The Babadook treats horror with far more intelligence as it really challenges your emotional output more constructively than films that are similar.

The Babadook Cast

The Babadook Creature

The Babadook “creature” itself takes up less than a few minutes of screen time as director Jennifer Kent focuses on implication rather than the obvious. What’s really effective is how conspicuous the cinematography is; as each shot of the creature is composed with immense subtlety. Its appearance plays on our misinterpretation of darkness. We’ve all been in that situation where we woke up in the middle of the night and thought we saw a strange man lurking in the corner only to discover that it’s only a coat or some random object. Metaphorically, the film is shot with this fact in mind.

As you watch the film you’ll quickly notice that the composition of each character and object is always on the verge of your peripheral vision rather than being directly in your field of view. You’ll think you saw something out of the corner of your eye and before you know it, the film has already cut to the next shot.

Despite there being no loud bangs or jump scares the film still manages to make you tense up simply at the sight of a mere claw in the darkness. Because the film plays on psychology you’re left questioning whether or not the monster is actually a fragment of Amelia’s fears and detachment because of her copious amounts of stress.

Like The Exorcist or The Shining, The Babadook is far more of a human story rather than simply setting up scare after scare. There is an inherent skepticism that needs to be maintained in order to manipulate the audience’s sense of understanding. By giving doubt, you’re also creating a fear of uncertainty; a natural human emotion that makes characters so relatable.

The Babadook Samuel

The Babadook Essie Davis

Now, on the face of it, this film may seem like a typical possession movie (even the Kickstarter campaign for the film descried it as such). Though, there is a strong case to be made that the events of the film are simply a representation of Amelia’s sorrow. The film is seemingly about grief and resentment that consumed both her and her son. Sam grew up without a father, he lives with a mother who keeps a locked basement with all his possessions. She clearly has at least some resentment built up towards her son as she finds him partly guilty for causing the father’s death. The kid feels that resentment and sees it constantly from his mother who has visibly gone off the deep end. The metaphoric shit starts hitting the fan when the boy goes into the basement, “releasing the demon” aka bringing stirring up strong memories for his mother.

This happens in cycles every year, hence Sam never having had a real birthday party. The boy feels like he caused everything and his mom reinforces this idea. This causes him to act out at school and also causes him great anxiety. The neighbor next door even says, “I know how hard this time of year can be for you..”

This is a reoccurring theme in both of their lives. They “protect each other” from it. He from her demons and her from his. The boy being tossed around was the mother’s doing. We learn that she sometime’s has out of body experiences (i.e. when she finds herself hovering over Sam with a knife out of nowhere). We as the audience see the boy being thrown around by nothing, but it is indeed the mother. The “possession” was simply the built up of memories/depression/resentment etc.

The Babadook Book

The Babadook Worms

The Babadook manifesting itself as a top hat-wearing monster? Well, young Sam is obsessed with magic, and magicians tend to dress in that fashion, maybe that has something to do with it. As far as the book? Well, it is stated in the film that Amelia indeed used to write children’s books and when she goes to the police station her hands are black. This isn’t from her burning the book but rather it is most likely from using pastels to create the book herself. Her keeping it in the basement is just her keeping it out of site/out of mind (or perhaps she finally faces her fears and is able to move on). Feeding it worms can mean whatever you want it to mean. Though, the bottom line is that this is not a movie about a demonic possession in the typical sense.

The Babadook isn’t groundbreaking filmmaking but it’s an affirmation in horror that was truly needed. There’s a corky oddity you need to overcome in order to get on the same page as the film. Though, once you do, it’ll keep you thinking and it will certainly keep you scared. There is indeed a persistent chill of how daring The Babadook was to subvert your attention to the unknown rather than the unremarkable.

What did you guys think of the film? Do you have your own theories or explanations? Let us know in the comment section below.

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48 thoughts on “What Does The Ending Of The Babadook Really Mean?

  1. I think all that you say is true, but that doesn’t mean that the Babadook isn’t real also. One thing that makes *The Shining* and *The Exorcist* so good is that the human drama corresponds to the supernatural–one could say, even opens the cut for another world to enter ours. *The Babadook* does show some scenes that are later revealed as illusion–as with the hole in the wall–but the child being thrown around is not one of them. It’s both psychological and supernatural. And facing a far worse (supernatural) threat to her sanity allows the mother to face her psychological issues.

  2. The Babadook was not a good movie at all in my opinion. I thought it sucked. Killing a poor dog was awful. The movie gets a -10 from me – two thumbs waaaay down. Demented film making and directed by a woman makes it worse in my book!!! The Crapabook should have never been put on film & the book should have been burned as it was in this twisted movie! Highly disappointed to say the least. Over the top hype, waste of time.

    1. I think you dont have enough thinking capability and its completely fine. If you didn’t understand the concept of “The Babadook” that doesn’t mean the movie was bad. I’m a horror movie lover and I know the concept of that movie. This movie try to concern people about the grief of a mother( in some part of her) in the chilling way. People like you only love the movie in which they have to leave their brain at home!

    2. You’d want to get over it. Big time. Made by a woman? Go on so and make your own movie, show the world your brilliant attempt at film making, with your big man penis!


    3. I agree entirely. This movie was massively over hyped. No scare factor, the antagonist lacks substance and the presence of horror. The 6 year olds acting was, exactly that of a 6 year old. The movie had potential, but was executed poorly. Waste of an hour and a half. Terribly disappointed to say the least.

    4. You are the worst type of idiot. They kill a dog in a horror movie and you lose your shit? Go sit in traffic for a couple of days until you’re covered by a tarp. Cheers

  3. If I had an inconsiderate little shit like hers I would consider throttling the him too…

    I felt no sympathy for the kid. He went from being an unmanageable monster to a whiney little brat..

    1. I hope you never have kids then lol. That child annoyed the shit out of me but ultimately reminded me heavily of my nephew. My nephew has ADHD and the behaviour the kid has in this film was very similar to that of a child suffering from ADHD. Then take into account the fact that he has been told that his father died driving the mother to the hospital to have him.

      If your kid has any kind of mental condition or disability please think about adoption before you throttle it 🙂

    2. I thought he started out as a little turd, but got more sympathetic, especially as our POV changed from sympathizing with the mother to fearing her. As much as hyper little brats can be annoying, in the end they are just children, mostly helpless children.

  4. Noting the comment earlier about the boy, Noah Wiseman, if you feel that way towards the character, I think the director got the point across. He’s a damaged child, fatherless, and has a mother who’s insane. She thinks her dead husband talks to her. Cahrayz! I repeat, she’s insane. I loved the darkness of this film, and found myself chilling the entire movie. When it comes to the worms, I believe the cockroaches and creepy crawlers are part of her association with the death of her husband, and the babadook. He’s dead, in the ground, and that’s what happens to a decaying body. As she was wrenching the black ink, I found myself wondering if she was using it to create the book, because I did catch the writer comment. I’m going to have to watch a second time, and I’ll love it, because I think the moments she sees her husband that these moments increase her psychosis greater than the terror she has from the creature representing death. Notice as the creature is taking shape, she offers herself by placing herself between babadook and her son. Almost as if to say, “you’ll take him over my dead body”. So, yeah…, it’s 430 am, and I can’t sleep after having watched this alone. I can’t wait to watch it with someone to see the fright it stirs in them. Excellent horror movie, best I’ve seen in years, amazing cast, and a great set design crew. At times as they panned through her house, I thought, “does this lady live in an insane asylum? The hospital she works in is brighter than her home.”

  5. I feel like the ‘out of body experiences’ Amelia was going through represent her repression of anxiety through pharmaceuticals. Why else would the scene with her convincing her doctor that her son needs drug treatment for his hyperactivity, later in turn to be revealed that she is abusing the medication herself, be in the film? Honestly I was going along with the psycoligical themes of the movie, not thinking the creature had an actual physical manifestation, until the last quarter of the film. The basement scene when Amelia is throwing up black sludge or ink, to me at least, represented her purging herself of the nullification and denial that comes with substance abuse to repress bad memories or to ail post traumatic stress dissorder, but the following scene of her confronting the creature made me throw that out the window and think it more literal. In my opinion, the story starts out as a psychological thriller (and the ambiguity of the babadook being real or not definitely marks the films greatness), and takes a literal turn towards the end, as in the repression and resentment of this woman’s anxiety and son, possibly mixed with some other dark sources, such as her husbands involvement in ‘magic acts’, actually created a physical manifestation of an apparition, not fully realizing it’s true form until Amelia accepts her feelings of anger and grief (hence the apparition being trapped or bound in the basement, even after her acceptance of her feelings. Honestly the ambiguity of the ending is what, in my opinion, made this a truly great horror film! You can interpret the ending in so many different ways, and I love that.

  6. Seems the review is about right; and I have a theory. In the end looks as if she befriended this “babadook” because she feeds it and told it “shhh”. The husband appears in illusions and its only through the babadook she gets to see her husband. So when the babadook fell on the floor the son told her not to touch it but she did anyways- leading to 2 conclusions she is delusional or she intentionally did it just so she can see her husband again. All in all good movie the characters were a bit cliche but the story is better than most horror movies. I like the seen where she was pleasuring herself but it was for a brief moment-kill joy.

  7. The monster within this movies “universe” for lack of a better term is real though. It obviously is meant to represent the things stated but it’s a entity unto itself for all intents and purposes.

  8. I saw the ending as possibly not being a reality. I understand the “possession” of the loss and the general sleepless craze that her life is but I saw the ending not as her overcoming her dark and sad thoughts but just a scene from her crazed mind. When the son preforms the magic trick I kinda thought “that was crazy how did he do that?” and then I thought “Maybe this isnt real”. Maybe the news broadcast of the woman bringing the son to the basement and stabbing him was the reality and we are seeing just the thoughts of a woman pushed past her breaking point.

  9. Hello,

    I liked your theory about this movie, it makes a lot of sense to me. I couldn’t figure out the bowl of earth and worms, but once I read your theory of the plot I think I understand now. It is highly likely that this is still a possession movie, and that the earth and worms represent some form of acceptance of her husband’s death. A corpse in the ground would slowly decay with the help of the earth and worms, so in theory she is “feeding” them to her dead husband, or the idea of her dead husband, so she can get over his death and admit to herself that he is decaying in the ground.

  10. No one seems to want to take a stab at the worms. I have looked since I’m also unclear. Worms can easily signify death as we are eaten by them in the grave. Father has been in the grave for six years, yet she continually sees him down there. Perhaps the death symbolism means she has moved on, he is finally dead to them.

  11. My understanding is thst she killed the dog, her little boy and then got shot by the police. She was nuts. We didn’t see it all but were given messages from what she was watching on tv and what she read in the boo, – yes, she wrote it. Th e boy was difficult be ause his mum was losing it and was purposely scaring him. No womder he was always afraid. Ag the point where he said Wake up mummy, he had died and went down to the cellar. Then the neigh our came by and saw the horror and called the police. The ending was all made up by her. Very good ut needed a bit more clarity.

    1. I’m not certain as to how you arrived at these conclusions, and I am relatively certain that you’re reaching petty far there. There’s not a single indication that the boy dies, and in fact, all signs point towards her beginning to go through the grieving process and heal her relationship with her son. It’s a tangible representation of the resentment she feels towards her son, the guilt that accompanies those dark feelings, and the redemption and reclamation of power snd strength that she obviously hadn’t been able to muster up until end. She created the book, gave life to the resentment and blame she felt towards her innocent child, and then punished both od them for her own transgressions. There was a ton of symbolism in this film, but people are somehow skipping right over that. In the end, Amelia steps up and defeats her demons with a show of power and a sense of control, and with all of the grace of a mother protecting her child. She goes from dismal, depressed and half asleep, to bright, optimistic and patient with Sanual. His behavior changed quite drastically once she stepped back and realized the implications of her own frustration and what it was doing to her son, and to her own psyche. The sister and potential love interest helped to facilitate for her the path of healing, and she was suddenly expected to attempt to forge and navigate healthy interactions with others, and with herself. The alienation and apathy she displayed were a hint to her depression smd inability to cope with her situation and the basement and worms were symbolic representations of her finally taking control of her own life and defeating the darkness within. She realized the fact that those things would always be s part of her, and she fed the monster the worms as a metaphorical means with which she kept the darkness contained in one small corner of her mind, and no longer let it rule their lives.

  12. I loved the movie and was surprised that from my own grief experiences I could relate to the horror that was happening. When the Babadook seemed to.become a real.presence that Amelia stood up to I took that to show how the energy in ourselves does eventually take physical form. As to the worms in the basement. I interpreted that to mean that her grief was still a part of her but she was in control of it now rather than the grief being.in control of her.

  13. I was completely amazed by this horror film. it took me by surprise at the amount of depth and layers it has in what is essentially a film about loss, grief, depression and in my opinion loss again. Basically I concur with your explanation Jesse, although I feel the ending is in reality a testament of the ultimate horror to befall on this family. As one respondent said, I believe the mother will ultimately kill her child Sam on his seventh birthday, just as she had witnessed previously on a tv news reports – which in reality is her own story or parallels her own story. Remember we caught a glimpse of Amelia’s face looking out of the window of the house being shown on TV where the infanticide took place.
    The fact that she is feeding worms to the monster means she is feeding her fears/state of mind (although the opposite could be true, she has learnt how to live with her fears) and the monster is true to her and tangible because her fears are real. In my opinion she never got over the loss of her husband and grief and resentment consumed her. The fact that this movie is watchable and that one actually cares for the characters, despite the subject matter, despite Sam being shown as a very annoying and irrepressible child is a testament of Jeniffer Kent’s direction.
    This film reminds me of Shutter island, Pointe Blank and Mulholland Drive in that what we are actually seeing is the world through the mother’s eyes which is a mix of reality and illusion, or better delusion. One really feels sad for her because she does try to overcome this situation in her own way but in reality makes it only worse.

  14. This was a great film! I thought the set design,writing and actors were all great. I understand that the Babadook was the mother’s crisis and all, etc. I think the director/writer did a great job presenting the absolute lack of self a single mother can have, on top of immense grief. That being said, I would really like to believe in that happy ending, but I really think (especially having read some of these comments) that the news story WAS real and they did not survive. There was the shot from underground moving up to where she was gardening. (And she was tending black roses nonetheless). That was her “point of view” now. And since she died in the basement, that was where she “delivered” the worms; her spirit associating that place with her own death. It was a good thought-provoking film.

    1. The worms were given to Ameila by Samuel, as he dug in the dirt for them, She told him he did a good job in getting the worms. Samuel is giving fodder to his Mom & she in turn, gives it to the Babadook. The Babadook is the thing that “gets under your skin,” & “you will wish you were dead” = facing your fear. “The more you deny me, the stronger I get” = the more you repress the fear (tranqulizers, denial, messing w/ elderly= not very ethical), the more they will manifest. Amelia finally faces the fear head on. When Samuel tells his mom not to touch the deflated Babadook (fear is a boogeyman, stronger only in illusion when running from it) she ignores her son’s demands and starts to think for herself. She becomes the parent, finally, instead of letting this kid have his way all the time. She stops letting the child take the riegns because he’s been controlling her the whole time. Samuel blames Ameilia for his dad’s death & she blames herself too, as well as her son. He starts to give his mother compassion & ultimately becomes her source of strength (worms), which she uses to face the monster/fear/grief in basement. When Samuel was trying to protect his mom from her unhappiness, he wasn’t taking an appropriate role for a child. She stepped up to the plate and in letting him be the child, he learned how to really help her. When you face your fears, they diminish, but they never vanish = courage,

  15. This was one of the worst movies I ever watched in my whole life. I’ve probably seen every horror movie there is to see. Even low budgets. By the end of this movie I wanted to kill the damn kid myself and I was left sitting there like what the hell did I just watch. I get the whole psychological stuff it was because she lost her husband 7 years ago blah blah blah she can’t deal. Okay life goes on. Everyone dies yes your upset but move on. I can see this happening maybe when he’s 3-4 but not 7 years later. Set all that aside the kids a big brat if that was my kid I’d give him a good crack on the ass saying do you wanna die and pushing me. Smh it was her fault for letting his get so bad because she is a mink mouse. But still! The worms at the end… What’s with that. Huh. And okay so he stabs her she throws him around all that and what she just went downstairs like its over I don’t need medical attention or anything. Mmmm na heck with the blood gushing out of my leg
    Please don’t watse your time with this movie I’ve seen bad movies but this is BAD I’d rather watch jack frost with the carrot being pulled threw the snow on a fishing line you could clearly see rather than hearing that little brats voice screaming the babadook one more time.

  16. Did anyone else think they were both dead at the end? The scene at the end where the bed was rocking and the babadook was coming out of the cupboard, I took as Amelia suffocating Sam. Then he was still for a while and she killed herself then saw him again. Then they were in the dirt with the worms a sacrifice that they had made to the babadook, as in they had died because of Amelias depression. I thought the magic tricks Sam did were designed to show that they werent in reality and they wouldnt go into Mrs ‘Roach’s’ house until they were dead because thats when they would actually be living with the ‘roaches’. Thats my theory anyway

  17. The ending is open for interpretation? Here is mine: Notice that just at the end of the movie, when the credits appear, we see innocent, charming images of young Anna and Lucie playing outdoors, just like free and happy children. In fact, the loyal friendship of these two girls is the core of the film and one of the things that makes it far more attractive than a regular exploitation/gore tape. The sweet memory of her dead friend is also what keeps Anna going through her journey into hell, and maybe what finally makes her ´special´ among the other victims: she did not arrive there by accident but guided by love. Let´s go back to the final scenes: that footage in B/W has the hazy feeling that old memories and dreams have. It could be a flashback of their past, an ethereal existence out of time, or both. At the gates of death, beyond physical exhaustion, Anna is experiencing a lapse of grace (or call it relief after extreme pain). Whether an “after-life” or just a brief inner vision (after all, who knows what “eternity” actually means? 😉 ), her mind is flying to the place she would best like to be: outside in the fields, free, unmolested… playing again with her best friend. This is heaven for her. And this is the “after-life” that she describes “so clear and precise” to the Mademoiselle . The message was so pure and sincere, so innocent and human, so immanent and simple, that it could only destroy that wicked, spiritually crippled bitch (and later cause the dissolution of her league of wealthy psychopaths, we assume). Anna and Lucie have won. And probably saved many other girls from following the same fate. They are in fact martyrs. But not in the pseudo-scientific, heartless and artificial way that Madamme understands martyrdom. Madamme was caught in her own trap, the quest of her life is over after confronting Anna, she found what she was looking for: an ultimate truth and lesson… but not the one or not in the way she expected it… she has miserably failed about everything for ignoring the most important clue: love and compassion. Martyrs is much more than gore or entertainment. It is a word of warning against sick “transcendence-seeking” and how easily it can dissociate you from your heart.

    Another tip: Notice that the “Mademoiselle” does not call Anna by her name: she actually calls her… “mademoiselle”! (at least in the French original version). This is the typical sadistic relationship between butcher and victim : the former is, in some sick way, looking for himself, torturing (virtually) himself in search of clues, answers, satisfactions he cannot achieve.. because the real answer the butcher is hiding to himself is: “how did I became so filthy and heartless?”

  18. If you watch the Babadook as a documentary about mental illness rather than a horror flick, it makes a lot more sense. The ending makes sense. Everything falls into place.

  19. The Badabook puts the allegory of the horror genre to a new level. Here no longer certain circumstances or individual scenes are equivalent to our personal fears. There is no parable that can be generated by interpretation. Rather, the entire (!) plot directly visualizes the psychological circumstances of the protagonist. It is an introspection from the viewer’s viewpoint. Instead of a semantic transmission in the sense of the metaphor, a direct staging of the internal forces takes place. The images that we see are not symbols in the classical sense of the genre described above, but are the symbols of the psychic structure of the main figure. Thus, an actual action rather than an inner-figure development is shown. The first scene reveals the trauma where everything else is based: Amelia loses her husband in an car crash on her way to the hospital to give birth to her son. She literally falls into a black hole – and lands in her bed a few years later. The film shows us that this trauma is unprocessed, that she has carried it off. The son Samuel is very afraid of monsters, he makes various arrangements to face them. These monsters, however, are not fantastic beings, but – without this fact being explicated in the film – the mental alienation of the mother against her son because of the trauma. And so we are with the Babadook. He is not a fantastic horror figure like Michael Myers or the typical ghost or demon, but a visualization of this untrained trauma. Good works of art are those who worked out their basic ideas right down to the details. The Babadook succeeds in this regard. When Samuel performs his first piece of magic in the fourth film minute, the cover of a magic book with the question “Do the spirits come back?” is briefly shown. In the first few minutes, the film expresses the viewer’s real theme: repressed trauma always comes back up and distorts the mind of the person concerned. “It does not work, if you do not look at me,” Samuel complains about his failing magic tricks. At the same time, this statement stands for the fact that Amelia’s problem will not change as long as she does not devote herself completely to her child and can leave the deceased husband. Samuel’s problems at school are merely a projection of the mother’s real problems. Since the death of the man is linked to the birth of Samuels, Amelia subconsciously occupies Samuel with the death of her husband and stands thereby to him in a relationship of emotional coldness and distance. So the plot is a symbolic-analogical, representative-visual-auditive translation of what happens in the subconscious mind of the protagonist. A trauma can not be undone. But it can be edited so that it does not dominate the further life. That is why the Babadook still exists in the cellar of the house and therefore Amelia looks shaken at his feeding. It is still her trauma, but it no longer controls her life, and especially her relationship with their son. The soothingly spoken “It’s alright. Sshhh.” therefore are not the words of the protagonist to a fantasy, but the words of the protagonist to herself.

    This is an excerpt of this article: https://eternalpulse.net/babadook-explanation-immediacy-symbol/

  20. Here’s my interpretation of the film – I’ll keep it short, as this isn’t the forum for a long, scholarly analysis. The film is a metaphor for a writer who has written a bad book and has to live with it. “Babadook” is an anagram for A Bad Book. As any writer will tell you, completing a book manuscript is “like giving birth.” When a bad book is written, it doesn’t just go away. It has been created, so it is out there forever. Notice in the film that the main character is a failed writer who has given up on her craft. There are also indications in the film that the failed writer wrote the bad book herself. The director of the film is also a book writer, so she is intimately aware of the birth-giving process that comes with creating a book manuscript. Her greatest terror is that, as a writer, she gives birth to the horror of a bad book. In real life, such a terror would be the greatest fear of a parent – will she/he/they produce a child that is a sociopath and a menace to society?

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