Now Playing: Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Babadook’
Alexander Hunter, Editorial Staff Writer
Now playing is the theatrical release of Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s first feature film, The Babadook. The film made a splash at this year’s Sundance and has received widespread critical acclaim, leading it to become one of the most talked-about horror films of the year.
”I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK” tweeted William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist.
Babadook tells the story of Amelia and Robbie, single mother and son, as they encounter a mysterious children’s pop-up book about the Babadook: a dark, cloaked figure who wears a large, eerie smile on its illustrated face. “If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Robbie, a boy of around six, is first to experience the creature’s existence outside of the book, screaming in terror as he experiences the creature’s daily hauntings. His mother presumes it to be a delusion only to realize his fear is anything but. The Babadook follows Amelia as she experiences the reality of her son’s fear within her own home.
What appears to be an edge-of-your-seat horror film is actually a film about the relationship between a mother and her son, and the role a mother must rise to in order to protect her kin. While many horror films stereotypically feature cartoonish damsels in distress (does anyone remember the VH1 reality show Scream Queens? I do), The Babadook is a tale of female empowerment in the face of danger. The film turns an unfortunate trend of the genre upside down.
While we are all too aware of male dominance in the film industry, especially in the form of directors and protagonists, Kent is an exceedingly rare case. On top of general Hollywood trends, horror is an especially male-dominated genre. Kent states that she doesn’t believe the film to simply be a horror film, as she thinks of it through its central thematic lens: the mother/son relationship. The horror aspects are secondary. Let’s just say this unnerving film works on both levels.
Overall, this film represents something largely unseen in recent memory: a female-led horror film that deals with issues of empowerment, swimming upstream against modern genre trends. Kent’s film will hopefully carve the way for similar features in the future: quality independent horror, female presence onscreen, and confrontation of larger female issues like motherhood, responsibility, and fear. At Fusion we not only celebrate the presence of women in film, in front of and behind the camera, but also films that speak to feminine perspectives. The Babadook is a film that epitomizes Fusion’s mission, a film that we hope is the first of more to come. Check it out, but be warned: it’s pretty scary.
The Babadook is currently playing in limited release, screening at the IFC Center and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, for which I recently interviewed director Jennifer Kent (read here: http://www.filmlinc.com/daily/entry/the-babadook-director-jennifer-kent-discusses-her-nail-biting-directorial-d)