“Watch The Babadook.”
“Watch The Babadook”
I tend to shy away from things that ‘everyone’ loves as I’m inevitably disappointed. After the levels of bigging up The Babadook got . . . well . . . it had to disappoint, right?
Thing is, I’m not overly fond of horror movies any more. I’ve gone off splat. I never really got into the whole torture porn thing and the recent speight of movies like ‘Paranormal Activity’ or ‘Insidious’ just leave me cold.
So what of The Babadook?
I’m going to hedge my bets here and say that it is without doubt an extraordinary movie. It is quite beautiful to look at; crisply and expertly shot; the colour palette is splendid in it’s depiction of post-trauma desolation; and pretty much every scene is a masterclass in composition and design.
It is stunning to watch.
The big problem it has, though, is that everything is too well signposted. The book we see at the beginning of the movie basically tells you exactly what is going to happen. No thrills. No shocks. Just a tragic inevitability.
And maybe that’s the point.
From the outset, we can see the stress piling up. The dreams, the death, the birth, the overworking and the son reacting to a situation not of his making; demanding attention from a mother so traumatised by the death of her partner that she can barely function but trying so hard to just cope.
It was never going to be pretty.
It was never going to be subtle, either. As we watch her world disintegrate, she becomes the embodiment of her personal demons. She becomes her own worst nightmare and – in lieu of a ‘possession’ – becomes the Babadook. But then the Babadook was always her.
Some of the overtly Freudian symbolism had me raising an eyebrow – she escapes the cellar and is reborn! (Womb alert!) She feeds the monster to make it happy. Hi, id and superego! but combined with some Jungian tropes, it actually sort of works.
Basically, if Jung and Freud had a fist fight, it would look like this.
One of the most unsettling parts of the movie is the total lack of soundtrack music. The lack of audio cues and shocks, gives it an almost documentary flatness. Again, this accentuates the sheer mundanity of everyday mental illness. She is drowning and yet, the world around her continues as it ever did. No one notices and no one can see that she is drowning, not waving. Something extreme, something must happen to be able to begin to deal with her loss. The Babadook is that creation and in dealing with her – now externalised – demons, she is finally able to move forward. All recovery is pain and there are casualties along the way, but The Babadook is her crisis point.
This isn’t a horror movie, not in the accepted sense of the phrase, anyway. It’s about as much a horror movie as “The World’s End” was about aliens and robots taking over the world.*
It’s a slightly hallucinogenic, psychotic episode.
The big question is . . . did I enjoy it?
Well . . .
I don’t know.
I did enjoy seeing The Babadook inserted into the Georges Méliès movies and the cast were simply astonishing. It looked amazing and had a great way of shifting from the real to the surreal without you noticing…but the opening 30 minutes were pretty dull. Making a film dull to highlight the mundanity of the heroines world is a hell of a gamble. Perhaps it had to be.
I’m sticking with ‘extraordinary’ anyway.
The Babadook is a truly extraordinary movie.
*read the review of The World’s End here. https://formlessspawn.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/the-worlds-end-spoilers-theories-and-slight-bafflement/