Horror proves hard work
ESSIE Davis has a newfound respect for horror movie actors after making the chilling Australian fi lm The Babadook. The acclaimed Tasmanian actor and star of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries chases crooks on the ABC television series but in The Babadook, she’s the one fl eeing for her life.
Davis said for at least a third of The Babadook, her character Amelia is in a state of sheer terror from things that go bump in the night – and fi lming was no picnic either.
“At the end of the day, I’m usually just exhausted,” she said.
“Really, my hat goes off to every actor who’s ever had to be terrifi ed in a horror fi lm, because terror is one of the most exhausting emotions you can feel.
“Literally, your whole body becomes this block of tension and fear. It is exhausting to have that much adrenalin running through your body for eight hours a day – or 10 hours, or 12 hours, or however long we did it for every day.”
In The Babadook, Davis stars as Amelia, a single mother whose husband was killed as she was being rushed to the hospital to give birth.
Years later, she’s struggling to deal with her “out- of- control” son Samuel ( played by Noah Wiseman), who is convinced there’s a monster coming to get them.
When a disturbing children’s book called Mister Babadook appears at the house, Amelia starts to feel an eerie presence and wonder if what Samuel is seeing is actually true.
Written and directed by Davis’ friend and fellow NIDA graduate Jennifer Kent, The Babadook has been generating rave reviews since it screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
It’s been praised not only for its classic horror scares, but the way it addresses what happens when people suppress what they feel.
As the mother of two ( twins, born in 2006) with Snowtown director Justin Kurzel, Davis said she could see herself in Amelia.
“She’s very recognisable,” she said.
“She’s unique but she’s refl ective of what a lot of mothers have gone through and the nature of motherhood, as well as the nature of repression of traumatic events.”
Davis said people from all walks of life had been touched by The Babadook.
At Sundance, she remembers a big bikerlooking horror afi cionado in his 60s standing up during the post- screening Q& A.
“He was just kind of shattered, and said, ‘ That’s the story of me and my mum’,” she said.
Personally, Davis feels a great empathy for Amelia.
“I’m very saddened by her story and sad about the times in my life where I may have behaved like that or things I wished that I hadn’t said. And I feel incredibly sorry for her,” she said.
“She is trying to be so unimpeding on anyone else’s life and she is a person that’s coping as well as she can, but no one can really help her, because no one … wants to help her.”