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Don’t look at the future. We drew something awful on it.

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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

6 Comments

  1. Lucy McGough
    February 21, 2015 @ 6:43 am

    Depression is like cancer in that it's your own body/cells/molecules turning against you, so metaphors of 'fighting' are unhelpful at best (apart from anything else they give the impression that if you try hard enough you'll recover completely), and insulting or dangerous at worst.

    If anybody is fighting depression or cancer it's the medical staff, who use chemical weapons (or electric shocks, or even physical extirpation). The patient is the battlefield.

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  2. James Murphy
    February 23, 2015 @ 6:54 am

    Typically great read, Jack. I was pretty charmed by the banality and lack of subtlety in the film. It's like the straight faced sincerity of giant ant films from the fifties. It's a failure to have not given a single moment of ambiguity around the monster maybe, perhaps being an outside threat, but that square conviction in its own ideas worked for me. And the imagery was potent.

    I'm positive – positive – that this thought didn't originate from me, but I watched the Guest a few weeks after my first Babaview, and where The Babadook is dressed, Hallowe'en style, in the dark clothing of a horror film but is actually just a story about grieving, the Guest doesn't let you know how much of an excellent, straight ahead horror film it is until the brilliant, shimmering last act.

    I much preferred the Guest's approach. And that's a better film too. But I don't think I was ever bored by the Babadook.

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  3. Jack Graham
    February 23, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

    I must check out The Guest. With The Babadook I was literally fidgeting in my chair, waiting for it to be over so I could go and rageblog about it.

    Reply

  4. James Sucellus
    February 26, 2015 @ 1:36 am

    'If, on the other hand, you want to make a ghost story, then make a ghost story. But don't make a film which uses the aesthetics of the ghost story as obvious and simplistic metaphors for depression and mental illness'

    As somebody whose life has been crippled by mental illness, I actually find supernatural horror to be one of the most effective genres for exploring depression due to its portrayal of the disconnect between perceptions of the material/immaterial, and the idea of a seemingly malevolent, oppressive, tainted universe.

    My favourite supernatural horror writers (Poe, Lovecraft, Ligotti, Bierce, Blackwood, Machen, Chambers, etc) all use it as a thread to explore psychological impact, which has always appealed to me more than the plot-centric supernatural horror of somebody like MR James – as much as I certainly enjoy his stories.

    Poe's supernatural horror writings (particularly Ligeia) remain the finest I've seen written about despair, and his modern successor Ligotti's The Last Feast of Harlequin and Nethescurial (http://www.ligotti.net/tlo/nethescurial1.htm) evoke the same spirit.

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  5. Jack Graham
    February 26, 2015 @ 5:20 am

    Thanks for the comment James (same to Lucy). I greatly appreciate that people who, unlike me, have actually suffered depression are contributing their perspective here. I'm a bit unsure if you're agreeing with me or not James… but I definitely agree with you that supernatural horror fiction powerfully expresses human psychological anxieties in the way you describe.

    My basic problem with the Babadook is that it vitiates horror's ability to express such things by essentially sacrificing the power of the supernatural. The irony is that by insisting on the monster being only a metaphor, the film actually robs the metaphor of its power.

    Reply

  6. Anonymous
    March 2, 2015 @ 8:36 pm

    I have just watched it and assumed that the character's constant acting of pain on the right side of her jaw was supposed to indicate that the hallucinations were the result of a brain tumour.

    Reply

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