Monday, January 12, 2015

Some thoughts on The Babadook

Last night a friend and I saw the new Australian film The Babadook. For those of you who haven't heard about it, it's about a woman and her son confronting a terrifying monster that appears in the initial guise of a book. It's really about more and is more meaningful than the usual trope of mother-protecting-child-from-monster. Much more. Perhaps an expanded blurb might give you a hint (don't worry, this contains nothing more than the IMDB blurb): A woman who has lost her husband struggles to protect her son from a monster in their house.

I was nervous about seeing it. I get scared by scary movies, so the thought of seeing what was being touted as the most terrifying movie since (insert your scariest movie here) and then going home to an empty house had me edgy. This was compounded by the fact that the lead character's husband died. I didn't know how I would react but I knew I wanted to see it  (I like both the lead actress and the director, plus it's written and directed by a woman!). I saw it with a friend, in her home, with plenty of breaks and chat times. All of that was set up to dilute the fear factor. Thank goodness for Amazon streaming movies.

As it turns out, it had elements of transcendence in it. This horror film spoke to my current state more clearly than any other film I've seen since Kevin died. That's my favorite thing about genre work - when it's well done it acts as a metaphor for the human condition and allows us to examine things that might be too painful, raw or distressing to look at directly. That's exactly what this film did for me and, I suspect, others in similar positions.

And.... here there be spoilers. If you haven't seen it, want to and care about spoilers don't go any further. Here is the trailer to offer you some buffer space.

The Babadook uses conventional horror tropes (threatened child, widowed mother, magical book, madness or monsters, dark creepy house, etc) to tell a story of grief, madness and the possibility of redemption. The main character lost her husband in a car accident as they were on the way to the hospital for the birth of her son, now almost 7 years old. She has never gotten over this loss and is unable to care for herself, let alone her son. The movie depicts the real horror of loss and grief with stunning clarity.

I felt known as I watched this film. I felt as though the horror of my loss was understood. I felt as though my own babadook was being named.

It's a well-crafted film, too. The shots, lighting, composition, writing, directing and special effects all work. They all work in the service of describing what deep grief feels like, what it is to be haunted and driven.

I don't want to reveal the ending (that's too spoilery for even me) but the ending says more about how to live with grief than any other film I have seen. We must learn to love and accept it (because is it not a reflection of the love for the lost one?) as we must learn to love and accept our own dark sides. We must learn that we cannot make it go away, we can only make peace with it. We must learn that the monsters are real, but they may not be what we thought.

We must learn to live with the dark, in spite of it and alongside it. When it comes knocking we have no choice but to let it in. But we can choose what to do next and who we become.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. I stopped at the trailer (wow, scary!) and will watch the movie on Amazon. With the lights on, plenty of snacks and whatever good company I can round up. Thanks for the review!


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