“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook.”
Whether due to globalisation and social media, the 2000s thus far have seen an increasing visibility of Australian films at festivals. However, whether it’s due to their lack of internationally recognised stars or lack of awareness in the general public of these films, many Australian indies have been unable to find large financial success domestically or internationally.
With the arrival of The Babadook, however, this looks like it’s about to change. Steering well clear of blood splatters, jump scares and all the trappings of modern day, low-risk, high-return horror, Babadook takes a more supernatural thriller route. Instead of cheap thrills that vanish from the mind upon leaving the cinema, the film hones in on much darker, more resonant topics – grief and depression that continues to linger, and maternal instinct. As a result of this, director Jennifer Kent creates an atmosphere of genuine unease, of real life horror, a growing unrest within the story and sinister edge to the characters.
Above some excellent writing, direction and performances though, Babadookhas all the ingredients for a sleeper hit overseas. This is a genre that doesn’t need a name star to become a success, rather relying on a good concept that draws the audience in, something that Babadook has in spades. Whether it finds big success in the US remains to be seen, but there’s promise for healthy VOD returns and perhaps theatrical, and, of course, a definite possibility of becoming a hit on the midnight movie circuit.
A refreshing Australian film off the well-worn tracks of coming of age dramas and tourism films, The Babadook is not perfect, but it is definitely an exciting, different film, and an excellent debut at that.
The Babadook received a limited release on May 22, 2014.