Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent’s debut feature film, The Babadook, is a psychological horror film about Amelia (played by Essie Davis), a mother unraveling as a monster seemingly takes over her home.
"I didn't want to portray Amelia as this crazy woman from the get-go," Kent tells Film Journal International. "Often, women who are crazy are demonized in films, because we look at them from the outside. I really wanted to experience what it was like to go down that slippery slope from the inside. I wanted to create a woman who was really just struggling, while also pointing out that this monster [exists] within everyone."
Kent was inspired by The Shining, as well as the works of Roman Polanski and David Lynch to depict Amelia’s deteriorating state of mind. “The director of photography, Radek Ladczuk, and I decided to keep things quite formal in the beginning, very balanced and even. And as she degenerates, time becomes less clear and shots become less balanced,” Kent explains. “I always imagined the film would start like a gentle pair of hands around the viewer's neck that would get tighter and tighter until people felt they couldn't breathe."
And the monster that may or may not lurk in the film’s edges was purposefully done as a practical effect wherever possible. “There was some [digital] smoothing done in post, but all of the effects were done in camera. That just feels scarier to me. Even if you don't realize it, it does something to your brain to see something that was created in real time and occupies real space,” Kent says.
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