I have not been so disturbed by something inanimate as when I stood before this installation on Saturday. The Banquet by Ana Maria Pacheco, on show at the RWA’s Strange Worlds: The Visions of Angela Carter exhibition in Bristol.
The first Australian movie I recall watching was Mad Max (1979). I thought it was bleak and I thought it was bloody good. Since then, I have been a fan of Aussie cinema.
The most recent example that has come to my attention is The Babadook (2014).
Now, this might be a little late for a review (so I won’t call it that), I mean I’ve only just watched the film on DVD and it was released four months ago. This of course is mainly due to the fact that as a parent of two nippers, I don’t get out much and when I go to the cinema, it’s on a Saturday morning. But I was drawn to this particular movie for three reasons.
First, it was written and directed by a woman, Jennifer Kent which I was made aware of after an article in Litreactor which was focusing on Women in Horror, and promised to be a movie that “eschew[ed] the modern propensity for violence and gore and hearken[s] back to the minimalist atmosphere and suspense that characterized the genre in decades past”. Read Den Of Geek‘s interview with Jennifer Kent entitled ‘directing The Babadook‘.
Secondly, it was a horror movie. I am desperate to be scared by horror movies. I grew up in the Eighties, a decade that seemed quite prolific in cinematic horror, and made me nearly abandon horror films because I was unable to face another The Fredason Poltergeist Horror part 18. For me these sequels did for horror films, what Now That’s What I Call Music did for music. The only horror film that’s had any physical affect was the 1979 TV movie, Salem’s Lot, which was directed by Toby Hooper and based on Stephen King’s book of the same name. The scene where the dead boy, Danny, is hovering outside his friend’s window caused a chill to ripple through my body and is still vivid in my memory after thirty-five years.
Third, it was Australian.
Did it scare me? No. Was it bleak, like some of the best Australian movies? Yes. And dark. No surprise there though: everything is dark nowadays, even adverts for young men’s deodorants (those products that I’m sure have been specially formulated to be sprayed on clothes and not bodies – or so young men believe). The film industry’s obsession with darkness has me miffed – Star Trek Into Darkness? What’s all that about? – surprising you may think, after all I am among other things, a horror writer, and love all things macabre. This anomaly has arisen since I have become a father, and could make for an interesting blog entry. The Dark obsession would be a meaty social commentary post, so I’ll quit before the rant has begun and simply ask for people to leave the dark fairies in the shadows and let Sleeping Beauty have the celluloid glare.
So, The Babadook. It’s a simple story and all the more powerful for that. Amelia (played by Essie Davies) is a single mother left to raise her young son Samuel (played by Noah Wiseman) after her husband dies. Samuel has always had monsters under the bed or in the closet but after mother and son read ‘The Babadook’ one bedtime, Samuel’s belief in one particular boogeyman becomes an obsession.
Be warned that in some reviews, this is the part where you would normally encounter the dreaded spoiler and more than one of them, no doubt. Nash doesn’t like spoilers. Watch the film (then, if you’re a parent go hide it on top of the wardrobe in the shoebox containing the all that stuff you bought from the Lovehoney shop), and let me know what you thought.
As the credits rolled, I knew that Samuel is the true monster-hunter for today’s world. I found the film to be thoughtful, intelligent, and feisty because it slapped me across the face and shouted, “Monsters are real; Deal with them.”