#15: The Babadook
You know it's a fairy-tale when it has its own pop-up book.
If it's in a word, or it's in a book, you can't get rid of The Babadook.
First of all, let it be known that you can in fact own your own copy of Mister Babadook's book (it was limited edition, and you'll have to buy it off some rando now, but STILL). I don't know what kind of person would want this on their coffee table (ME), but just file that info away for later. There are only ten weeks left 'til Christmas, after all.
Jennifer Kent wrote and directed this Australian horror movie about a big bad Nosferatu-esque monster who stalks a single mother and her anxious son. Honestly, it was the best horror of 2014, and should have been on everybody's radar, but *le sigh* it was overlooked. I saw it premiere many months late at a screening in New Haven where the theatre showed a DVD copy on a tiny screen. Still - the first watch made my skin crawl. Maybe it was the twenty seat (closet) theatre. Maybe it was a particularly anxious day for me. Maybe this one is just really, really scary.
I'm definitely drawn to imaginative kinds of scary. And anything jumping outside of a children's book is doing it for me. If you enjoy the creepy-crawly feeling that a good creeper can give you, but don't require the blood-and-guts gore, this psychological smack-in-the-face is your jam (Hold on, looking for a job writing millennial catalog descriptions ASAP).
But let's get real - The Babadook is a scary dude. But that's not what the meat of this movie is all about.
Here are things that bother me that AREN'T The Babadook:
- Oh, wait, Samuel.
You know, I'm not a mother. I'm relatively young still. I think I'll probably be a mother at some point. But let me take a moment here to ask all you current mothers out there - does this child scare the ever-loving crap out of you, too? He's darling, he means well, the magician routine is the most adorable thing I've ever seen, but I want to meet the parent who thinks they could handle this child.
There is not one moment in the first thirty minutes of this film that I do not completely sympathize with Amelia, and wish for Sam to leave her be long enough to take a damn nap. I cringe when he claws at her neck and clings to her in his sleep. Wince when he screams uncontrollably in the back of the car, sending himself into stress-induced seizure. I cry with her when she begs the doctor for some kind of psychiatric intervention for her child that does not relent. And I understand her longing when she stares into the neighbor's window, wishing to live the life of an older, childless woman - watching television, finally able to relax. So, when things start to *snap* for Amelia, I am not surprised.
But then comes the guilt that I have sided, perhaps, with the wrong person. Because Sam seems to be right about one thing: you should not, for any reason, let The Babadook in.
When Amelia stops at the police station to file a report on whoever (or whatever) is stalking her with a children's picture book, the men on duty are cruelly dismissive of her. It feels like the entire world is against her, and she is truly alone.
I can't think of a moment that might better sum up what a heavy burden life can be when we are living it alone. Not to mention, the coat and hat that are hanging on the wall in back seem to be those of The Babadook, himself.
Other Things to Notice:
There's a reason they did a real life print-run of the book. It's a really cool prop, and illustrated in the kind of inky broad strokes and texture that somehow evokes both The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Eric Carle.
The opening scene of Amelia falling onto the bed is reminiscent of so many things for me - number one being the "dream" sequence in Rosemary's Baby where Rosemary is raped by the Devil. That thought weighs on the entire film for me. Now it will for you, too.
*Want to watch it tonight? You're in luck - The Babadook is streaming on Netflix.
If You Like It, Watch:
A Nightmare on Elm Street: I'm going to watch this next week (along with A LOT of Wes Craven, because RESPECT), but it's worth pointing out that The Babadook is not just Nosferatu-inspired, but maybe a little bit Freddy, too. Look for the scene where Freddy's arms expand like accordions, looking for a great big hug - see if it looks familiar after watching this one.
Repulsion: It's not just Rosemary's Baby that left a mark on Babadook. Polanski also made this little psychological thriller that's ALL about a woman experiencing some internal conflict. Nothing like being locked in your apartment for a few days...
Yes, it finally showed up.
*click for the trailer*