Sin­is­ter Stranger

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT… The ter­rif ying su­per­nat­u­ral shocker from Down Un­der.

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Adapted from her sin­is­ter short film


Mon­ster, The Babadook is the di­rec­to­rial fea­ture de­but of Aus­tralian ac­tress- turned- film­maker Jen­nifer Kent and con­cerns a ma­li­cious en­tity that haunts a sin­gle mother and her prob­lem­atic child. Fea­tur­ing an en­tirely Aussie cast and crew, it was filmed in the sparse South Aus­tralian city of Ade­laide, which grants the ex­te­ri­ors a cer­tain idio­syn­cratic dis­tinc­tion not nor­mally at­trib­uted to Aus­tralia, as the film­maker re­it­er­ates.

“There’s some­thing pe­cu­liar about Ade­laide and about its ar­chi­tec­ture,” says Kent. “It’s a world of its own mak­ing, which was a per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for The Babadook as it has its own con­sis­tent rules but isn’t par­tic­u­larly set any­where. It’s like a Brothers Grimm fairy­tale. I guess that was the feel­ing I was after but I wanted a strange­ness to the world.”


For The Babadook’s dis­tinct visual

2 style Kent was also in­flu­enced by the Ger­man pi­o­neers of 1920s ex­pres­sion­ist silent cin­ema, renowned for evok­ing their char­ac­ters’ men­tal states and sit­u­a­tions through dra­matic use of light­ing and set­ting in such clas­sics as The Cab­i­net Of Dr

Caligari and Nos­fer­atu. “The early ori­gins of cin­ema were re­ally ex­cit­ing. I loved how they took the mind and psy­cho­log­i­cal re­al­ity and put it into the space,” she says. “That’s what we aimed to do with

The Babadook but in a con­tem­po­rary way and I feel lucky at what we ar­rived at.


In­tro­duced via the sus­pi­cious ar­rival

3 of a deeply disturbing chil­dren’s pop- up sto­ry­book en­ti­tled “Mis­ter Babadook”, the tit­u­lar threat is one of the most un­set­tling screen boogey­men of re­cent times. But is it purely psy­cho­log­i­cal or could it stem from some­thing more pri­mal?

“I think the ques­tion is left up to the au­di­ence to de­cide,” con­sid­ers Kent. “I wanted to look at it in quite an ab­stract way. What would hap­pen if some­one sup­pressed some­thing ter­ri­ble to the point where it gained enough en­ergy that it split off and be­came some­thing alive?”


Although pre­fer­ring to la­bel her film

4 a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, Kent has the smarts to ac­knowl­edge that hor­ror en­cap­su­lates a far broader cin­e­matic con­text.

“I’m not a genre fan, but I do love films that fit within the hor­ror canon,” ad­mits the film­maker. “For me a film like David Lynch’s

Lost High­way is the essence of what’s hor­rific about the hu­man mind. I feel The Babadook is a myth – a myth­i­cal story in a do­mes­tic set­ting – and some­times myths are scary and usu­ally scary to wake you up in some way.”


For a claus­tro­pho­bic dou­ble- han­der

5 be­tween ac­tress Essie Davis ( The

Ma­trix Reloaded/ Rev­o­lu­tions) and six- year- old new­comer Noah Wise­man, Kent was able to call upon her pre­vi­ous act­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to elicit an ex­tremely con­vinc­ing per­for­mance from her young male lead.

“I found my­self feel­ing the emo­tions with Noah so it was a safe space for him to go into,” says the di­rec­tor. “If he had to be ter­ri­bly angry in a scene I had to be pre­pared to go there with him to show him how, and give him per­mis­sion I guess. A lot of direc­tors are frightened of ac­tors but I’m not, be­cause I know how they work.”

The Babadook is re­leased on Fri­day 24 Oc­to­ber.

Noah Wise­man has al­ready mas­tered the art of peer­ing around cor­ners.

What’s more creepy than a story book mon­ster? A ma­gi­cian. That’s what.

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