Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Babadook

An alternative title for The Babadook could be " a mother's worst nightmare." So what do mothers worry about, particularly if they're tired and stressed? Do they worry they might have a car accident if they're really tired? Do they worry that they might actually harm someone or something they care about if they're really angry? Do they worry about getting sacked if they have to take time off work to look after their kids? Do they feel inferior in the company of better-dressed other mothers with better-behaved children?  Are they embarrassed when their child pushes his cousin out of the treehouse? Do they worry that the neighbours hear them shouting at their children and judge them? Do they think they'll scream if their child says "Mum-mee!" one more time?

The answer to all those questions is probably yes. And all those scenarios crop up in the Babadook. I was unsurprised to find out that the Babadook  was written, produced and directed by women. It seemed
 like a very woman-centric nightmare scenario. The
story centres around solo mother Amelia and her seven-year-old son Samuel. Amelia's husband died on the trip to hospital for Samuel's birth so we're talking solo parenthood with extra pathos. Samuel has "behavioral issues"  and a vivid imagination. One of the story books in the house features a bogeyman- in- the-wardrobe type creature which Samuel is convinced is real. He builds an assortment of weaponry to deal with it and of course he can't sleep because he's frightened. His behaviour gets worse and he's suspended from school. Amelia gets (more) exhausted and she starts to see the Babadook too. She rear-ends a car. She makes soup with broken glass in it. She strangles the family dog. And so on.

The trouble with The Babadook is that it's tedious rather than terrifying. There are some scary moments, an atmospheric score and there's quite a lot of screaming but mostly you want it to stop because of the tediousness. I think a good horror film should have the kind of frightening thing that you can't do anything about, and you never know when it's coming. It should get under your skin at least a bit. I felt that most of the terror in the Babadook was eminently addressable. Try painting the rooms in your house is a more cheerful colour than dark gray. Get a flatmate or a boarder or live with your mum so you don't have to deal with your child completely alone. Get psychological help sooner rather than later.  Watching the trailer again I can see that part of the nightmare is Amelia seeking help and not getting it, but perhaps waiting seven years wasn't the wisest idea.

I didn't feel the Babadook got under my skin. I didn't go home and feel any urge to look under the bed or check the wardrobe for bogeymen. All I felt was a bit relieved I wasn't a solo mother and a bit cheated in the adrenaline department.

Anne's rating 2/5 Ian's rating 2/5

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