‘The Babadook’ Director Once Revealed Her Thoughts On The Dark Side of Motherhood

The Babadook is a rare horror movie that takes on more than its apparent topics. And in the case of Babadook writer/director Jennifer Kent, there was much more than terror to explore. In a 2014 interview, she revealed the inspiration behind the film and talked about the darker side of parenting. 

‘The Babadook’ is about a lonely mother and her troubled child 

'The Babadook' director Jennifer Kent and star Essie Davis in black
Jennifer Kent and Essie Davis | Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

The highly acclaimed 2014 movie caught interest for several reasons. Firstly, it was an outstanding horror film, both technically and creatively. But more importantly, it was relatable — and dangerously real. 

A single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), are having trouble coping with the violent death of their husband and father, respectively. As if the fear takes life, Samuel begins to express terror about a monstrous, top-hat-wearing specter in their suburban house. 

Amelia’s loneliness grows more and more vacant and broad, like the house they inhabit. Samuel becomes unhinged. Moreover, the presence begins to take over the tiny, bereaved family’s lives completely. 

The Babadook strikes a chord because it explores grief, mother-child dynamics, and unhealthy coping strategies. If you haven’t dealt with all of them, you’ve at least dealt with one of them. These pivotal moments in life often give rise to nightmares and other frightening illusions. The journey toward a healthier perspective can be harrowing. 

The horror movie directed said parenting can be extremely difficult 

In a 2014 interview with Den of Geek, Kent went there when discussing the most challenging aspects of being a parent. When asked about tackling the “taboo subject” of fear and resentment between parents and children in a horror movie, the director responded that she wanted to explore parenting in the horror movie from “a very real perspective.” 

“I remember, very early on in the script development, reading a story about a guy who’d broken up with his wife and he was on the top of a bridge in a traffic jam, and he took his five-year-old daughter, and threw her over the edge,” she told the publication. “I remember being horrified by that. But I also thought, well, he’s a human being. So what actually got him to that point? And is there the seed of that in all of us? I was really wanting to explore parenting from a very real perspective.” 

Kent went on to discuss the less-often discussed topics of parenting, motherhood, and mental health. She added that she couldn’t find a lot of research on the subject. 

“Now, I’m not saying we all want to go and kill our kids, but a lot of women struggle,” Kent continued. “And it is a very taboo subject, to say that motherhood is anything but a perfect experience for women. To the point where I tried to look for research, and I found it very hard to find anything on the subject.” 

So Kent’s creativity took over, and the result is an astoundingly intuitive piece of work, driven by fear and brilliantly atmospheric imagery. 

Kent said that even a friend who is a ‘balanced and loving mother’ identified with the horror movie 

Kent described having a “dear friend” screen the movie and her subsequent reaction to its depictions of parents and children. 

“It’s funny, I have a really dear friend who’s really balanced and a loving mother,” Kent said. “She came to a screening, and there’s a moment where [a figure] glides towards the child, and it’s huge. She burst into tears when she saw that, because she thought, wow, I didn’t realize how big I must have seemed to my kids when they’re that little. And how we all want to be loving and perfect, but we often fail in that. It was very confronting for her – in a good way.” 

If The Babadook taught us anything (besides what a real nightmare looks like), it’s the ability to make sense of the darkness in difficult times. 

You can rent The Babadook via Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, or iTunes.

RELATED: These Horror Movies Directed By Women Will Cause You Nightmares

How to get help: In the U.S. and Canada, text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 to reach a crisis counselor for support.