#NASTYWOMEN: COLUMN 5: THE BABADOOK (2012) REVIEW
DIR: JENNIFER KENT
In this column I’ll be focusing on women in film; profiling wonderful directors, writers and characters. While I’ll be open to exploring great female characters in all films, I’m going to concentrate on and celebrate women surrounded by women.
There is a darkness in all of us, but it’s at the forefront of Amelia’s (Essie Davis) life. Losing her husband in a car accident on the way to the hospital to give birth to their son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) six years prior, Amelia is still heavily grieving. We can instantly tell that there is a distance between mother and son. Samuel is obsessed with protecting the household from monsters, primarily through using firecrackers and weapons he’s built himself, and with severe behavioural issues at school (including bringing said weapons to the classroom), Amelia decides to temporarily pull him out after an interaction with ridiculously stern and unsympathetic teachers.
Then all of a sudden, a creepy af book appears on Samuel’s shelf with no explanation. Amelia has never seen it before, but begins to read and – no shit – is freaked out almost instantly at this Babadook character. He will basically slowly torment you until you’re utterly terrified and then feeds off your fear. GREAT. She puts the book away, she tries ripping it up, she even sets it on fire, but the Babadook isn’t going anywhere.
At first Amelia is convinced it’s part of Samuel’s preoccupation with monsters, but it slowly begins to dawn on her that the Babadook is legit. So not only is Amelia facing this ominous presence, almost everyone she comes into contact with is cold, unkind and unhelpful in every day. Her snobby and uncompassionate sister Claire (Hayley McElhinney) has zero time for her (“Why can’t you just be normal?!”), her boss is constantly watching over her with an annoyed scowl and the teachers at her son’s school want to punish, rather than help, him. Oh, and they’re all dressed in black – just like old mate, the Babadook.
Samuel loves his mother (“I promise to protect you if you promise to protect me”) and we know that Amelia loves him too, however it’s no surprise when she does eventually scream at him that she wishes it were he and not her husband who died that night, six years prior. The kid has good intentions, but he’s annoying as all hell. The only light in Amelia’s life is the attention she receives from her colleague Robbie (Daniel Henshall – a far cry from his iconic performance as John Bunting in Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown). He’s super sweet and so obviously interested in her, but she’s far too caught up in her own problems to take notice.
The Babadook is raw, chilling and frightening without the use of gore, which is quite impressive, given the climate of contemporary horror. The tension build and builds throughout, slowly but surely consuming Amelia, until she’s facing the Babadook head on. She’s descended so far into the darkness that she has no choice but to fight, or be lost forever. Sound familiar? I feel like quite a few of us have our own Babadooks that we’ve battled, or are battling. There is always a way out of the darkness, no matter how scary or overwhelming it might be.
Chloe Sesta Jacobs is a people and culture geek who loves writing about film and usually does so with her two miniature sausage dogs lying all over her. Chloe really enjoys world cinema and has been heard to say “if it doesn’t have subtitles, don’t talk to me”. She also tweets a LOT at @csestajacobs.