The Magic Lantern: Episode 114 – The Babadook
Jennifer Kent, the writer and director of The Babadook (2014), crafted the story of an exhausted widowed mother and her demanding 6 year-old into a psychological horror film about facing up to the darkness within ourselves. Those of you who are parents, and even those of us who are not, can find something terrifying in this story. Whether it is the toll that sleep deprivation takes on you, or coping with loss and grief, you too may fear you are going mad, even without a sinister threat from the outside.
On parenting, Kent stated: “Now, I’m not saying we all want to go and kill our kids, but a lot of women struggle. And it is a very taboo subject, to say that motherhood is anything but a perfect experience for women.” It becomes startling to watch Amelia ask for help and be rebuffed over and over. She tries to express that something is wrong with both her and Samuel, but there is no lifeline to give her relief. As she is forced to give up her personhood in order to be a paragon, her resentment, fatigue, and hopelessness feel so honest.
The treatment of both Amelia and Samuel at their darkest points feels very honest too. Amelia is a real threat to Samuel as the monster takes over her body and soul, and Samuel’s promise of love and protection has its own menace. Ultimately, the power of love truly can save their family, even as their grief lives on as a monster in the basement that must be fed.
What you’ll find in this episode: the Babadook’s LGBTQ legacy, how Cole might behave if he ever got some sleep, and why Ericca is afraid of hats.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Babadook on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Mother.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Next of Kin.
Dead Heart: Australia’s Horror Cinema.
Monster, the short film by Jennifer Kent.