I have already mentioned on this blog about my preferred way of watching horror films. I like to be in a fun group of people who are all about as much of a wuss as myself, and I’ll do anything to avoid sleeping alone that night. Bingo! August 22nd I went to my friends house for wine, take-out and films. I had been meaning to watch The Babadook for months, however as I am a massive wuss, I usually wait for events like these to roll around to tick off a horror movie.
Thankfully, my two friends and viewing partners that evening love horror films and are both just as big a scaredy cat as I am.
We had an insane amount of technical difficulties in order to get the film to even start. Netflix was down, then the laptop we were using was too slow to stream anywhere else online, and the download speed was dire also. By the time we got the film going, I was praying that it was going to be worth all that faff.
‘The Babadook’ centers on Amelia who is a single mum (as her beloved husband died years earlier) and her son, Sam. Early on we are shown that the son is extremely difficult, getting himself in trouble at school and at birthday parties as well as continuously not sleeping complaining of the monster in his bedroom – this all leads to Amelia becoming increasingly stressed and exhausted. One night when Sam can’t sleep, Sam picks a book from the bookshelf which Amelia proceeds to read to him: Mister Babadook. From then on, the Babadook is ever present in both their minds and their home.
Amelia is a truly incredible character. I do realise that I am suffering from my usual ‘honeymoon syndrome’ which I experience with films, where I love everything about them until something better comes along. I can’t help it; I’m fickle. But honestly, Amelia may be one of my favourite female characters to date. Definitely my favourite horror film character. She is presented as an actual complex character. This is a gift usually only bestowed upon male characters, especially in horror. Female characters are continuously presented as the victim and/or the sexual object. Amelia is a mother, neighbour, sister, colleague, potential love interest as well as being a messy character in that she ruins all of these relationships during the course of the film and importantly, there is no male character coming to save her. It is also worth noting that Amelia as a mother is extremely believable – she doesn’t strip off and jump into the shower to ‘wash away her worries’- she is a complex human being who then also happens to be a mother.
The use and presentation of female sexuality and agency is also relatively rare in a horror. Amelia is not branded the ‘slut’ after she is shown using her vibrator, nor does she become the first to die; she doesn’t seem to be punished as a result of her sexuality at all. Similarly, female sexuality is not presented as ‘monstrous’ such as it is in ‘Carrie’ or ‘Alien’ and is regularly another horror stereotype. As mentioned earlier, Amelia’s sister, her sister’s friend, neighbour and female child services officer are all female and they all possess a form of agency and control over the narrative. They are not treated as back seat characters.
The monster itself I found very intriguing and original. Some of the best horror films I’ve ever seen always forgo revealing the ‘monster’ and instead increase tension to the point where I almost start feeling sick. ‘The Babadook’ had this exact affect on me. You’re first shown a drawing of the Babadook in the story book that Amelia reads to Sam. After that the monster is merely hinted at, yet his presence is so overwhelming that that in itself was scary enough and you’re constantly waiting for it to make an actual appearance. Luckily, it does and the wait is worth it. The tension built in ‘The Babadook’ reminded me of ‘Mama’ (I’ve written about ‘Mama’ here), however thankfully once you’re shown the monster, that is where the similarity ended. The payoff in ‘Mama’ was dire and disappointing. Mister Babadook himself appeared looking almost as hand-drawn as he was in the book itself, and moved with a stop-motion effect. It almost makes you continue to use your imagination, and this made the monster creepy and eerier than I expected.
‘The Babadook’ deals with incredibly complex themes such as motherhood, grief and depression. Sadly, I’ve read a lot of Facebook status’ and Tweets which give the impression that the main themes and important issues that the film deals with were missed by a lot of viewers; who in turn rated the film badly. The film transcends entertainment and I found myself actually caring for and fearing for these characters. Usually in horror films, the characters are written so badly that I’m quite excited to see them die.
It turns out that the film was definitely worth all the technical faff and has found itself in my Top 3 films of 2015!
Have you seen ‘The Babadook’? What did you think?