The Babadook: Masterpiece or Menace? Part 1

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“The Babadook” (2014) is an Australian psychological horror film that was written and directed by Jennifer Kent. It is a brilliant work of art. Rarely is such a complex interpersonal relationship seen in a horror movie. The art style of the infamous book about the eponymous Mr. Babadook is just amazing. It’s spooky, conjures up a feeling of crawling dread, and above all, it is a genius way to foreshadow events without being heavy-handed about it.

Baba

When the rumbling starts, that’s when you know that it’s about to get really scary. The sound design in this movie is perfect.

 

Maybe that’s what people don’t like about it. It’s subtle. It uses a ton of visual symbolism and metaphors. It’s a thinking man’s horror film.

“The Babadook” is a slow burn movie that digs its claws into you, and sinks then them deeper, and deeper, into your skin until you’re sitting there, clutching your security blank (possibly chewing on the corner of it), with your heart beating rapidly as you tense up, and wait with growing dread for the monster to appear on-screen and do something utterly horrific to the main characters.

We’re going to share anonymous comments about”The Babadook” that pretty much covers what haters are saying about the movie, and then go on to explain why the statements aren’t true. Check it!

Complaint #1

 “People need to stop calling it a horror movie. It’s not even scary. If a movie isn’t scary, it’s not a horror movie.”

 

Really? So, if a movie isn’t scary, it shouldn’t be classified as horror? Doesn’t that discredit a whole slew of horror movies that have been released over the past four decades? Sorry, but that’s bologna. Like a huge pile of stinky, sweaty bologna that’s been left out on top of your high school teacher’s car. (It wasn’t me. Honest!)

669px-bologna_lunch_meat_style_sausage

My bologna has a first name, it’s H-O-R-R-O-R.

 

Not all horror movies are scary, and not every horror topic is something that scares everyone. Horror movie subjects are just as varied and unique as our own irrational fear of pancake spiders.

 

Spider Pancakes. Mutant or Menace?

Those aren’t chocolate chips. They’re spiders, pretending to be chocolate chips. They wait until you crunch into them, and then their legs pop out and they sink their fangs into your tongue.

 

And, just like pancake spiders, not all horror movies are slow burners. Seriously, they burn super fast. I think those chocolate chip imitating spiders have heat-based super powers or something.

But to just give a blanket statement that indicates that your personal opinion, and yours alone, should indicate how a movie is categorized is silly at best, and narcissistic at worst.

Horror has many sub-genres, and more are popping up every year. It’s got so many step-children, its starting to outsource them to oversea sweatshops. Granted, some of the newer sub-genres are dumber than others, but that doesn’t matter. They’re all classified as horror. Deal with it.

Oh yeah, by the way, “The Babadook” is scary as hell. Don’t worry. We’ll explain why in a bit. Seriously. Put your hand down. This isn’t movie class… Or is it?

 

How can you eat your pudding, if you don't eat your meat?

But mummy, how can you eat your pudding, if you don’t eat your meat?

Complaint #2

“I don’t know why people keep talking about “The Babadook.” It’s boring. Nothing happens in it. If you want to watch a good movie, go see “The Conjuring” or “Insidious,” or “Martyrs” or something. Those are good movies.”

OK. Let’s tackle this one by first explaining what type of horror movie “The Babadook” is. “The Babadook” is a slow burning psychological horror movie. The slow burn part of that sentence is crucial.

What is a slow burn movie? Why is it important?

A slow burn can refer to a single scene or to an entire movie. In a slow burn movie, the pacing is, wait for it… slowed down! The slow pace creates tension and suspense that is slightly increased with each additional scene.

Watching a slow burn horror movie is like going up a staircase. You start out slow and by the time you get near the top, you run up the last three steps.

 

Little Jimmy is the stair climbing champion of his kindergarten class.

 

Slow burn movies use subtle visual cues, shifts in tone, and charismatic settings to establish mood. In the case of horror, this becomes a play of light and dark color tones; shadows gliding over the walls, light hitting objects at sinister angles, normal household items behaving in strange ways, and camera angles that make it feel as though something nasty is watching the main characters. Slowing increasing the suspense and tension by using camera angles and lighting that makes the viewer think that the monster is going to show up at any moment,  so that when the monster finally does show his creepy face, it’s absolutely freaking terrifying.

That’s what “The Babadook” does. And it’s brilliant.

That’s right, anticipation is 98% of fear. That’s what suspense is, the feeling that something MAY happen at any given moment. When done correctly, the threat of danger can really put audiences on edge and scare the bejeezus out of them.

For those of you that may be wondering, the bejeezus is a small butterfly shaped organ, like the gall bladder, that floats around the human body. It’s hard to see on X-rays.

Slowly ramping up the suspense with artful choices in lighting, color palettes, sound effects, and camera angles isn’t something that a lot of directors do in their horror movies.

 

See? James Wan isn't hiding under your bed. You're safe kid.

See? James Wan isn’t hiding under your bed. You’re safe kid.

 

Since most main-stream horror movies are over-saturated with psychotic killers/colorful monsters running amok for no reason at all, and jump scares, such as the “loud music is scary because it makes you jump” cliche,  it’s clear to see that being subtle in film making is hard. It’s difficult to do, and apparently, it’s hard for some people to understand. Hey, don’t get mad. It’s not your fault.

Audiences are too used to being spoon-fed inane plots that have no meaning. You don’t have to chew to digest them. There’s no thinking required for them to make sense. Basically, those movies are brain candy. But not the awesome giant sized bag of M&Ms. No. They’re like the loser candy you get at Halloween. They’re full of empty calories and taste like wax and stale peanuts. They’re a dime a dozen. Although, due to inflation rates, that’s probably more like $100 a dozen nowadays.

 

In Part 2 of “The Babadook: Masterpiece or Menace?” we’ll be talking about the psychological horror aspects of the movie, and why they are so freaking scary. Seriously. Motherhood is terrifying.

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About Cassie Carnage

Horror connoisseur. She who types too fast. Lover of cats and monsters. You can find her debut horror novel, WE ARE ALL MONSTERS here: bit.ly/waam11 Her upcoming vampire novel series, Addicted to the Abyss Volumes 1 and 2 will be out late 2017.
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4 Comments

  1. I have a slight phobia of spiders. Your joke about pancake spiders is actually terrifying.

  2. Ha! That means that it’s working!

  3. More articles please!

  4. Hey Someguy,

    Glad to hear that you’re enjoying our posts. Rest assured that we’re working hard to bring you guys new content! Please check back with us soon, as we’ll have a lot more fun stuff to read. You won’t regret it. Unless you hate being entertained, then you might regret coming back to read more funny posts. 😀

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