Happy New Year everyone!
I started off the new year by watching a film called The Babadook. I had watched Chris Stuckmann, a film critic on youtube, talk about it in one of his videos where he spoke about the problem with horror films today. I agreed with him completely. He spoke about how horror films today are just full of cheap jump scares and no real tension or a unique or interesting story line. Despite this, most horror films today rake in tons of money. It’s actually obscene to me how much money even the most awful of horror films can make, even overtaking some of the actual great films showing in the cinema. Chris talks about how modern audiences who go to watch horror films are now just expecting cheap jump scares, and of course, production companies will just make more because they know they make a lot of money even if the movies are slated and not enjoyed.
Chris’s video really got me thinking about the films that scare me the most. Most of them, in fact, probably all of them, are thrillers and not horror films. Anytime I actually see a mainstream horror film now (because a friends asked me to go) I feel uninspired, bored and uninterested. I can predict the plot, the scares and most of the time even the dialogue. Jump scares might have been frightening to me when I was younger but now, I see it for what it really is, a cheap trick that really isn’t effective for the tension at all.
Most of the films that scare me the most have no jump scares or creepy dolls or ghosts. The films that scare me the most have real themes and elements, frightening characters like Hannibal Lecter or Jack from The Shining. The films are scary because they could be real, they could happen. And most importantly, the director, writers and producers were not just trying to make a carbon copy film that would get them as much money as possible. The film is trying to make you feel something.
I wrote a post a while back including my top 10 thrillers, and although none of them horror films, I guarantee they would scare you more than any horror film in the cinema right now could.
So anyway, back to the main reason for this post. The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer Kent. It’s really nice when I discover a film that’s not only been written by a woman but also directed by one too, (did you know a female director has never won an Oscar?!) Anyway, The Babadook is about a mother, Amelia, (Essie Davis) who’s husband died driving her to the hospital when she was about to give birth to their son, Samuel.
I’m going to keep it straight with you. Things ain’t easy for Amelia. Her son Samuel is erratic, loud, and he plays with weapons. Oh, and this kid never sleeps. That’s like a horror film in it’s self for me, right there.
Samuel is also obsessed with the idea of monsters. Monsters under his bed, monsters in his wardrobe, monsters trying to kill his mother. He builds all these weapons to fight them and poor Amelia has to take him out of school because he brings one of the weapons to school. He’s just a bit of a sh*t, i’ll be honest (can you tell I don’t like kids?!)
Amelia is incredibly sleep deprived. She’s a good mother, you can tell she’s trying hard and she loves Samuel, but she has no help and things just keep getting harder and harder. And this is where Mister Babadook comes in. One night, Samuel asks Amelia to read him a bedtime story. He brings over this strange red book, called of course, Mister Babadook. It’s a pop-up story book about a creature/monster who, once you know about him, the monster will torment you…forever. I’m guessing.
So Samuel and Amelia are both freaked out by this book, and quite rightly. Samuel, who already was paranoid about the monsters, becomes traumatized and convinced The Babadook is haunting them.
Then things just get progressively worse for Amelia and Samuel.
I won’t say anything more about what actually happens because I feel like that’s all you need to know. The great thing about this film is, it’s scary but not once is there a jump scare. The film manages to keep the tension the whole way through, sticking in your throat like a lump as you watch Amelia sink deeper and deeper and loose control.
Not only is this film scary but it’s also really clever. The creature, Mister Babadook, is scary as a concept on it’s own, but the scarier aspect is what the film is actually trying to say. The film is about grief, loss, mental health, and coping. Amelia is the type of person, like many of us are, that pretends everything is OK and manageable when really things are almost at breaking point, weighing down on your/in your head. Amelia and Samuel become more isolated throughout the film, the only person who really seems to care about them is the lovely next door neighbor, an old woman with Parkinsons.
The Babadook, is scary, thought provoking, quite sad at parts, like Amelia’s sister who is so self involved she doesn’t think or care to think about Amelia or how it is for her to bring up Samuel on her own. The film is touching by the end in it’s own unique way, and really deserves to be looked at than more than just a good horror film. Marketed as a supernatural horror film, it’s really not about the supernatural at all. The loss of her husband is obviously something Amelia has never really dealt with, keeping all of his things locked away in the basement downstairs.
Grief is a powerful human emotion and this film shows the raw horror of keeping emotions locked away.
I really recommend you start the year off watching a horror film like this and not any of the awful ones that might be in the cinema at the moment! Just don’t let The Babadook in…
My Rating- 9/10