Mashable is proud to announce the launch of MashFlix, our online and offline film club. Every few weeks, we’ll be showing a newly released or upcoming movie in an open screening, along with conversations with filmmakers.
This month, in tandem with our partner IFC Films, we’ll be shining a spotlight on The Babadook. The film tells the story of a single mother, Amelia, who is grieving the violent death of her husband and battling her son’s nighttime fear of a shadowy monster. Watch the trailer below, get #spooked and then sign up for the free pre-release screening at the IFC Center in New York on Nov. 20 here. The movie will be followed by a Q&A with writer and director Jennifer Kent, who we’ll stream in from Australia.
If you can’t make the screening in person, fear not. We’ll have opportunities over the next few weeks to receive free digital versions of the film to screen at home. You’ll also be able to join the Q&A portion of the event through our live stream; follow the new MashFlix Twitter account for more.
Kent spoke with us about her directorial debut, below:
Mashable: The Babadook was adapted from a short film you directed almost a decade ago, Monster. What was it like to translate that to a movie?
Kent: I never intended to make The Babadook when I was making Monster. It’s simply because the idea in the short wouldn’t leave me that the feature came into being. This idea of facing the darkness in ourselves was something that kept demanding attention. So I decided to explore the idea in a longer script form. Things just flowed on from there. But I wasn’t working on The Babadook for eight years! The whole process took about 3 years from first idea to being on set.
How does your experience as an actress inform your directing?
I can’t imagine directing without any acting experience. I think it makes me very empathetic with actors. I understand how tough the process of acting can be, it’s not as easy as it looks. I can support actors in this challenge, but I’m also tough on them when its called for, and will gently push them to go outside their comfort zone.
As for working with Noah Wiseman (who was 6 at the time of our shoot), there’s absolutely no way I could have got that performance out of him if I didn’t know what it meant to act from the inside. He was a natural talent, but he had no idea what acting was. It was up to Essie [the lead actress] and I to teach him. And what a student he was. Amazing little boy.
The Babadook tackles many serious emotional issues, including grief, trauma and anxiety. What led you to take on those heavy themes through horror in particular?
This frightening space always felt right for Amelia’s story because the things she’s been through — and the things she ends up having to face in herself — were terrifying for her. This frightening world allowed her story to be more visceral and less “kitchen sink drama.” I wanted people to be engaged on a deeper level and to feel her story, rather than stay detached, so it just felt right.
But horror or fear is so subjective. Some people are frightened by this film. And some are not. That’s fine by me, I couldn’t care less about the film’s “scare factor rating,” to be honest, because it wasn’t my primary goal. My intention was always to tell that woman’s story as truthfully as I could and with as much emotional honesty as I could. The scares are a side effect of her experience, Amelia always came first.
Children’s tales have a long history of being darker than they appear at first glance, but your story is anything but subtle. How did the legacy of children’s literature inspire or impact your writing?
I guess they were in my DNA somehow. I loved stories as a kid, like most children… I was drawn to darker stories. I’ve had an awareness my whole life on some level that life is not all sunny and happy all the time. In fact, I think a lot of mental problems stem from this idea that life is meant to be perfect and if it’s not, we’re getting it wrong. I think life is a happy chaos actually, and we are less in control than we think. The darker fairy tales capture that. Even Bambi’s mother died!
There has been a lot of criticism of Sundance Film Festival, and the festival circuit in general, by young independent filmmakers. But those people had a lot to do with the success of your film. What are your thoughts about the distribution process? How do you see the industry changing?
I don’t know what that criticism is, so I can’t really comment on it. I can only say that the festivals that agreed to show our film have done extraordinary things for it. We owe a lot to Sundance and the other festivals that have featured The Babadook because it gave us exposure we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I’ve found big problems to lie in Australian distribution and exhibition. Our film has been much more successful outside our own country. There is a big stranglehold in Australia from the U.S. market; a lot of our own films either don’t get screened or aren’t marketed well, so no one knows about them. These are the areas, in our country anyway, that are breaking down and changing at a rapid rate. I think distribution of independent films has to change. It’s no longer a stigma to open on VOD and cinema for example, and it shouldn’t be. What matters is that people can get a chance to see your film, doesn’t matter where that is — hopefully legally, otherwise us independent filmmakers will starve!
What’s your favorite scary movie?
I refuse to answer that question! I feel if I mention one there are 56 that fall by the wayside… I guess I really love scary films that have a depth to them, that explore some deeper aspect of what it means to be human, the fragility and terror of that.
Read the full MashFlix launch press release here.