If we're going to talk about fear, the question shouldn't be, "How do I make a movie scary?" but rather, "Why am I afraid?" And very fortunately for all of us, director Jennifer Kent gets it and she made her 2014 film The Babadook accordingly, a movie so good it's been bringing a smile to my face all day. It does exactly what a horror movie ought to do--it's personal; the supernatural elements are reflections of the crises experienced by the people involved. It's beautifully, stylishly shot, the performances, which are crucial, are very good. I'm so happy I saw this movie.
I kept thinking of the line from the Nine Inch Nails song "The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)": "Everything's blue in this world." Everything in The Babadook is either blue--usually a dark navy blue--or pale pink or beige until a red pop-up book called The Babadook mysteriously turns up on the shelf in the two storey Victorian home occupied by nursing home attendant Amelia (Eddie Davis) and her six year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Samuel's father, as he matter of factly likes to tell anyone exhibiting the slightest curiosity, was killed in a car accident the night he drove Amelia to the hospital where she was to give birth to Samuel.
There is something vaguely oedipal going on--Samuel causes his mother no end of vexation with his obsession with weaponry. He builds himself a backpack mounted catapult, acquires firecrackers from the Internet, and is finally expelled from school when he brandishes a small crossbow. He constantly tells his mother how he plans to protect her, how the weapons are for killing "the monster".
Meanwhile, his behaviour is alienating all of Amelia's friends and causing her to lose sleep and general piece of mind. The fact that Samuel's violent behaviour is motivated from anxiety over the possibility of losing his mother makes it all the more difficult for Amelia to confront the issue. But when Samuel starts to believe in the Babadook, Amelia's inability to confront the issue starts to become a big part of the problem. Without giving too much away, I loved how this movie to some extent made Amelia into Jack and Wendy Torrence rolled into one character.
And director Jennifer Kent was quite consciously influenced by The Shining among other great movies. I would have liked her after reading this interview even if I hadn't just watched a movie by her I loved. Some quotes I especially liked;
". . . I really believe we need to face our darkness. We have this naïve illusion that life is meant to be perfect, and I think the sooner we realise that that’s never going to be true, the happier we’ll be."
"I think if people think sensitively and seriously about films in this canon, like The Shining and Let The Right One In, even going back to Vampyr and Nosferatu, there’s a real depth to those films – and the Polanski films as well, the domestic horrors. I guess they were my inspiration."
"Mythical stories run through all of us, and films like The Thing and Halloween are films that I love for their simplicity. Les Yeux Sans Visage, Eyes Without A Face, is a really beautiful film to me. I could rattle off many. But I love films like Texas Chain Saw Massacre as well, because that is a really shocking film, and it has a deeper reach to it than people really give it credit for."
And she apprenticed under Lars von Trier. Gods, I like her. I hope people fund all her movies for the rest of her life. See this movie, preferably in a theatre, if you can.
Twitter Sonnet #694
The bee tongue settles oddly by the pearl.
Liquorice rain'll stain the cloudy pink.
The bike chain bar admits a sprocket girl.
Recursive oils wait under the sink.
Robot skeleton shopping malls provide.
The steel livestock drift through red sleep.
Relax if iron and protein collide.
The metal hopes to buy electric sheep.
The grander rug released an abridged night.
Leaf meds clogged in an accident poultice.
Old paper clip cobbled claws rust on sight.
The red sky's His bellyflop for solstice.
Black conical fingers indexed the blue.
Pink good for movies gave some quarters too.