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Non-Review Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale arrives as Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook, and represents a slightly different sort of horror.

The Babadook was one of the best horror films of the decade, a creeping and unsettling look at a mother’s depression as she tried to work through her complicated feelings towards her own son. The Nightingale is something quite different, essentially a frontier western about a woman who sets out to avenge herself upon the British soldiers who inflicted a terrible suffering upon her and her family. As Clare tracks these men through the wilderness with an aboriginal guide named Billy, she finds herself confronted with the true nightmares of colonial Australia.

Eyes frontier.

The Nightingale belongs to a rich tradition of Australian westerns including modern classics like The Proposal, stories that play on the frontier myth and explore the country’s deeply troubled and unsettled history. Kent’s direction is tense and claustrophobic, refusing to ever let the audience look away from the horrors inflicted upon the continent by the European settlers who presumed to claim it as their own. The Nightingale is a bleak and cynical piece of film, one that is occasionally suffocating and dizzying in its portrayal of man’s capacity for inhumanity.

However, perhaps the most striking aspect of The Nightingale is how – for all its unflinching brutality and refusal to offer trite sentimentality – the film advances an argument for intersectionalism. As Clare journeys deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness, she discovers that the suffering inflicted upon her and her family is just one expression of a more primal and insidious violence, and that perhaps she has more in common with Billy than she might originally think.

Not so hot to trot.

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My 12 for ’14: The Babadook and Living With Demons…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

The Babadook is a delightfully well-executed Australian horror film for most of its run-time, an uncomfortable and occasionally harrowing exploration of guilt, resentment and motherhood. The scares are executed cleanly and efficiently, and director Jennifer Kent does an admirable job of ratcheting up the tension as the movie ticks along. However, the most interesting and clever aspects of The Babadook are found nestled in the movie’s final few minutes, providing a satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion to the allegorical horror film.

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Note: This “best of” entry includes spoilers for The Babadook. You should probably go and see the movie, particularly if you are a horror fan. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Still there? Good. Let’s continue. Continue reading

Non-Review Review: The Babadook

Monsters are real.

We all have our own monsters that we keep with us over our lives. “You can’t get rid of the Babadook,” a mysterious storybook threatens early in the runtime of The Babadook. Young Samuel tries to warn his mother Amelia about the monster lurking in the dark spaces – under the bed, in the closet, in the corner of his eye. He offers one rather sage bit of advice when it comes to such creatures. “You have to let it in.”

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Writer and director Jennifer Kent has crafted a superlative creature feature with The Babadook, acknowledging the metaphorical nature of monsters. These strange nightmares tend to stand in as expressions of guilt or anxiety. They give expression to thoughts and fear we could never properly articulate. The Babadook teases its audience with questions about the reality of the eponymous creature.

Is the strange “Mr. Babadook” something that truly exists, or is it something Samuel (and maybe Amelia) have created to cope with a horrific trauma?

thebabadook2 Continue reading