The Babadook (2014, dir. Jennifer Kent) scared and upset me so badly on first watching that I had to pause it. As with Rosemary’s Baby, though, the thing that was most frightening wasn’t the supernatural but the familial. Watching Amelia, the mother, lose control with her son was terrifying. I could imagine being him and being terrified of a parental figure, someone who is bigger and more powerful than you and who is supposed to love you and protect you. I also worried, though, about becoming that mother figure. I wasn’t pregnant yet, but I was thinking about it. What if I lost it like that? The Babadook himself as well as the book and rhyme and visuals associated with him are very effective, but they’ve got nothing on the threat of maternal violence.
This is also a really great movie for its design. The Babadook himself has a very cool design, and the book about him is neat – in a creepy way. It has a physicality that props in films don’t always have. It seems like it could reach out and enter the real world. In addition, the overall light and color scheme for the film works effectively to create the sense of depression that follows naturally from the loss of a loved one and visually connects nicely with the images associated with the Babadook. Both are dark but also kind of grimy.
You can’t get rid of the Babadook.
I also wanted to note that this is one of only two films on my countdown directed by a woman. There are quite a few that focus on female characters or experiences or that feature strong performances by women, but there are so few women horror directors. I hope that the work done recently by Jennifer Kent here (as well as a handful of others) will open the door for more horror directed and created by women.
Earlier countdown entries:
- Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
- Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
- Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
- Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
- Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
- The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
- Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
- Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)
- Candyman, dir. Bernard Rose (1992)
- Creep, dir. Patrick Brice (2014)
- The Wicker Man, dir. Robin Hardy (1973)
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dir. Tobe Hooper (1974)
- Cabin in the Woods, dir. Drew Goddard (2012)
- Suspiria, dir. Dario Argento (1977)
- The Witch, dir. Robert Eggers (2015)
- Rosemary’s Baby, dir. Roman Polanski (1968)