I can count the number of truly scary horror films I’ve seen this year on one finger. That’s not to say there haven’t been other good horror movies, but for a horror buff like myself it takes something special to actually make me scared. Like worried to walk upstairs in a dark house scared. Most people wouldn’t be thankful to have nightmares, but the last time a horror movie gave me one was when I was a kid. That is until I watched The Babadook (review coming).
But there are great horror movies coming out every year and while I’m thankful for them I’m not writing entire blogs dedicated to my thanks for them. There’s an extra layer of thanks for The Badadook that I’d have towards it even if I hadn’t seen it and that’s because it’s a horror film directed by a woman (Jennifer Kent), which, in case you hadn’t noticed, isn’t something that comes along very often.
[Happy Flixgiving, everyone! We’ll be posting these leading up to the actual Thanksgiving. Click here to see all of the films our writers are thankful for.]
Now, just because something doesn’t come along very often doesn’t instantly make it worthy of thanks, but more female directors in more genres is incredibly worthy of it, especially the horror genre. Why is that other than the basic fact that it would probably be best if the actual diversity of the planet was reflected in those that make movies? Because diversity breeds creativity and change and the horror genre is in desperate need of that. The Babadook is the kind of movie that brings change to a genre and we have a female director to thank for it.
The horror genre has been in a bog of slasher gore that first started picking up in the early aughts as films like Saw and Hostel flooded the screen with torture porn. I actually fully supported this. When films like that are done right they can be entertaining and scary, but the genre became saturated with them and the few goods ones (like You’re Next) were few and far between. It was honestly getting old and boring, but more importantly the game of one-upmanship meant the kills were going from fun to disturbing. There’s a better way to scare folks than blood and loud jump scares.
That way is through tension, character and actually well executed scares, and I can’t thank The Babadook enough for bringing it back to us. Kent brings us a kind of scary that lingers thanks to her adept handling of the relationship between a mother and son and the creature that starts to haunt them. She focuses on tone and pacing instead of creeps and and gore. Most importantly, though, she keeps her characters real meaning the slow descent into madness is felt personally instead of being an attack on screen. This kind of focus on true horror is something to be incredibly thankful for.
Could a male director have done this? Here again, we’re glossing over the major point that there just should be more female directors just because women deserve the same representation in film making. Maybe, but they sure as hell weren’t, and I think they would have struggled to capture the characters anywhere near as well. Shouldn’t it be a female director directing a film that its base is about motherhood and loss? That would make sense to me. Just like a female director taking the reigns of a female led superhero film makes a lot of sense.
And that, that right there, is the real and truly awesome reason to be thankful for The Babadook. A film this good is bound to succeed and when it does it will show the folks who think that male director have to be a the helm of certain genres that that is total crap. Female directors don’t just bring diversity, they bring change, improvements and drive to genres. It isn’t just representation and a possible better understanding of female leads that they bring to cinema, it is a different way of looking at things. Diversity, be it sex or race, doesn’t just mean better representation in our films it means better films all around. If that isn’t something to be incredibly thankful for then I don’t know what is.