10 Strange Facts for Stranger Things

I love Stranger Things. And apparently, so does everyone else.

Despite its popularity, the rampant critical acclaim of Netflix’s Stranger Things was unprecedented upon its release. The initial script produced by the series’ creators, the Duffer brothers, had been repeatedly rejected by a string of cable networks. It was simply uncategorizable. The ensemble of children at the heart of the TV show—Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will—made producers question: was Stranger Things a children’s show? Would adults enjoy it? And if it was geared towards children, shouldn’t the tone be lighter? 

Thankfully, the Duffer brothers never changed their stride, and neither did the show. It was picked up by Netflix in early 2015 and here we are: a homage of 80’s synth pop, jean jackets, and sci-fi movies later, Stranger Things now sits atop Netflix’s most-watched series list, and boasts a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

So what was it that pushed Stranger Things over the edge of indie film territory and into pop culture appeal? Was it the soundtrack? The stellar casting? Steve Harrington’s hair? Maybe, but the response might also have something to do with nostalgia, and Stranger Things certainly had plenty of that.

You might have caught some of them, but here are 10 references you may have missed in Netflix’s monstrous hit.

1. E.T.

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Image from camiseteria.com

No surprise here; thematic shades of E.T. are all over Stranger Things. We see it in the cinematic shots of the series—kids on bicycles, anyone?—but it’s also stunningly prominent in the parallels between Eleven and E.T. As an “alien,” so to speak, Eleven and E.T. share a fixation on one type of food (leggo my eggo), have both dressed up in blonde wigs to blend in, and are both in hiding from shadowy government figures.

2. Dungeons and Dragons

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Image from roebeast.blogspot.com

I think we all caught this one. After all, the series opens with a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, in which Will fails to kill a popular a mythical creature in D&D lore. This scene does two things: first, it foreshadows Will’s capture, which happens immediately after and drives the entire season one plot; and second, it contextualizes the creature in terms that the kids (and us as the audience) can identify. For the rest of the series, the unknown creature from the Upside Down is known as the demogorgon. 

3. Alien

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Image from bustle.com

The demogorgon in Stranger Things has a few nods to Ridley Scott’s aliens. It leaves a lot of goo in its wake, and (spoilers!) it likes to incubate its victims with smaller creatures by forcing its victims to swallow them.

They’re kind of like…worms. Or snakes. It’s gross.

4. Stephen King

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Image from stephenking.wikia.com

I’ve listed Stephen King as a category in a vague sense, because Stranger Things has multiple horror motifs typified by King during his prolific career as a writer. Mainly, Stranger Things takes its cues from King’s novels Firestarter and Carrie. In both cases, Eleven’s telepathic and occasionally erratic powers, along with her abusive and watchful upbringing, align her with Carrie White and Charlie McGee.

5. Star Wars

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Image from heavyarmor.wordpress.com

This one is a bit more obvious, as the characters often voice the references directly instead of the Duffer brothers hiding them under cinematic quality. Eleven has “jedi powers,” Mike owns a Yoda action-figure and talks about the Force, and when Lucas thinks Eleven has betrayed the group he calls her “Lando,” after the Star Wars character who betrays Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.

6. Nightmare on Elm Street

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Image from elitedaily.com

Episode 8 of Stranger Things has Nancy and Jonathan trying to go head-to-head with the monster, luring it into Jonathan’s house with a brigade of traps and eventually setting it on fire. Sound familiar? It should—the climax of the 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street played out in a similar way.

7. The Goonies

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Image from mentalfloss.com

Everyone loves a good ragtag group of misfit kids. And we see a lot of similarities in the playful and mischievous behaviour of the Goonies squad to the Stranger Things crew. The main rule: no adults allowed. (But as a lover of Stranger Things, I’m willing to point out that we do have Joyce and Hopper involved, but they act pretty autonomously for the majority of the show and are in their own separate ‘clique’).

8. X-Men

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Image from comicvine.gamespot.com

X-men also has misfits, yes, but we’ll give that to The Goonies instead. A trickier reference to the Marvel comics actually happens in the first episode, when Dustin and Will are talking about an X-Men comic; the specific issue they argue about is volume 134, in which “Jean Grey mentally snaps…and inadvertently unleashes the Dark Phoenix, a cosmic force beyond her control,” which is a tip of the hat to Eleven later in the series.

9. The Thing

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Image from culturecreature.com

The 80’s horror movie The Thing makes a few appearances in Stranger Things. This one is a bit like Star Wars, in that there are a couple of casual mentions you can spot if you’re looking for them. In Mike’s basement there’s a poster for the movie on one of the walls, and when Dustin calls Mr. Clarke for information on how to build a sensory deprivation tank (which is the most awkward and amusing thing on the show), guess what Mr. Clarke is watching? That’s right: The Thing.

10. Minority Report/Fringe

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Image from movle.blogspot.com

Last but not least, I’m going to throw in a debatable one. When the characters on Stranger Things make a sensory deprivation tank for Eleven to heighten her telepathy and enter the Upside Down, some people got flashes of the 2002 movie Minority Report. Specifically, the scene when Spielberg’s pre-cogs lay in their own sensory deprivation tanks to get flashes of the future.

Now, as it’s Spielberg we’re talking about here (whose other movies are a big influence on the show), it’s probably a homage to him. But! For anyone who watched the hit TV series Fringe—did you not get flashbacks of psychic Olivia Dunham concentrating in a sensory deprivation tank? I did. I really did.

So, did we miss anything? Let us know if you caught something strange that we missed, and bonus points for the more obscure the reference is!

-Contributed by Lorna Antoniazzi

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Anna Biller’s The Love Witch: A Feminist Approach to the Alternative Horror Genre

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Anna Biller’s faux-1960s alternative horror film, The Love Witch (2016), follows the narcissistic and eyeshadow obsessed Elaine in her search for the perfect fairy-tale romance. The self-proclaimed “Love Witch”, Elaine (played by Samantha Robinson) is a woman who uses home-made love potions, sex spells, and her own mysterious allure to seduce men until, of course, it takes an unexpected turn for the worse.

Aesthetics and visuals are central to the film. The costumes, scenery, cinematography, and soundtrack are all carefully directed and consulted on by Biller herself, a Cal Arts graduate. The sequences seem spontaneous, taking on a life of their own beyond the linear plot of the picture. These vivacious, colourful, and intrusive statements guide the film from the tropes of a mainstream horror flick to the unconventional features of an independent art film.

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In the director’s statement for The Love Witch, Biller mentions, “While I am quoting genres, I am using them not as a pastiche, but to create a sense of aesthetic arrest and to insert a female point of view.” Although Biller takes influence from aspects of the alternative horror/thriller genre, she uses a perspective that twists the typical male gaze of that genre, and brings about a sense of female empowerment. By using her knowledge of what men want, Elaine controls her own sexual agency.

This feminist concept is intermingled with the rules of witchery and the occult within the film. This is evident when the members of Elaine’s cult discuss how the strength of a woman’s sexuality both excites and challenges men’s patriarchal position in society, and how this makes men feel inclined to “put women in their place.” It is the figures of magic who bring attention to this, and the concept is juxtaposed with Elaine’s controversial behaviour regarding her lovers. Elaine uses her attractive persona to seduce men, but with her potions and her high expectations of romance, she “loves them to death.”

In a twist, Biller presents the dichotomy of Elaine’s lack of concern regarding her lovers with their increasing emotional attachment and eventual toxic separation from her affection. Elaine lacks any moral conflict in her actions, believing that the tragedies that result are simply a shame.

Biller borrows from the trope of the 1960s femme fatale, utilizing their hatred of betrayal by former lovers and twisting it so the woman gives the man what he wants physically but uses magic to separate herself from the emotional response he desires. Here, Biller references the social ideology in which men are thought to lack an emotional response in relationships. The moment Elaine denies her lover an emotional response is the moment that he starts to long for her love and support.

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Another vital aspect of the plot is Elaine’s obsession with fairy-tale romance. Despite the contrary ways she exhibits this, she greatly desires a relationship in which her love is fully requited and without complications. While Elaine presents herself as imposingly stern and careless, she fantasizes about a pseudo-medieval scene in which she rides off with her prince charming, away from the difficulties of a mundane life.

When Elaine’s curious landlord Trish (played by Laura Waddell) snoops around in her apartment, we are exposed to the hyper-erotic drawings and paintings that cover the room. These depict explicit scenes in an artistic style that is unexpectedly harmless and bubbly. This seems contrary to the darker erotic aspect of the film’s visuals, but its absurdity and spontaneity are central to the alternative rhythm of the plot, and play on the extreme paradoxes in Elaine’s character.

Overall, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch explores the rhetoric of the ill-fated search for a perfect love affair. In unison with the occult genre, this results in over-the-top dramatic sequences, stunning visuals, and a soap-operatic flair. Although the film is identified as a horror/thriller, it most definitely isn’t the type of film that has you at the edge of your seat in anticipation. Rather, the overly dramatic acting, quick-cut sequences, and flashy and comical costumes leave you with a smile plastered across your face.

-Contributed by Mia Carnevale

When the Living Are Dead

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Illustration by Margarita Gladkikh

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers.

The Others is a skillfully crafted horror movie that’s worth watching because of its ending. The film seems like it’s going to be your typical dose of contemporary horror: isolation, a large estate drowned in fog, religious themes, and children. Director and screenwriter Alejandro Amenábar keeps his piece expertly free of the cheap scares that we’ve come to expect from contemporary horror. He keeps his audience waiting in the dread of not knowing what’s going to happen. Why are the children kept away from light? Why are the servants so strange? Why does the gardener cover gravestones with leaves?

The movie swiftly develops an air of mystery through unnerving the audience with the dusty mansion, Grace’s nightmare, the disappearance of the old servants, and their peculiar replacements. The Stewarts believe that there are ghosts in their house because the piano plays itself and footsteps without attached bodies thunder around upstairs. However, the genius of the movie arises when the audience realizes the Stewarts are the ghosts, haunting the mansion that the new family occupies.

The Others is one of those movies that seemingly reveals the plot to the audience in the beginning. But the audience only realizes upon viewing the movie for a second time that the servants were in on the secret that the Stewarts are dead from the beginning of the movie. However, the audience is not aware of this and neither are the Stewarts. Clearly something is off throughout the film, but the audience struggles in putting together the subtle clues left behind by Amenábar: the servants disappearing after the deaths of the Stewarts, the absence of the postman, and the new family viewing the house.

It is rather tough for an audience to pinpoint a specific antagonist in this film. Could it be Grace, her devious daughter Anne, or the strange housekeeper Bertha Mills? For some time I wondered whether Grace was mentally stable because of her increasing frenzied behaviour, devoutness, and need for control.

The audience knows something happened “that day”, which was when Grace gave in to her mental instabilities, smothered her children, and shot herself. In the end, the audience is finally able to piece the clues together and we understand that Grace went insane from the grief of her husband’s death at war, which was exacerbated by the fog that kept them isolated from the rest of the world. Amenábar points out through Bertha that “grief over the death of a loved one can lead people to do the strangest things”. This is clearly aimed at Grace, who did what she did to escape from the bottomless pit of pain she was imprisoned in. But it also presents the effect that war has on families that were torn up by loved ones who went to fight and never returned.

Religion is a prominent aspect of the film, especially since the only thing the children do is read the Bible. However, in the end, the devout Grace is devastated by her broken faith because, to her, it is impossible for the dead and the living to exist in the same realm. The Stewarts are stuck in some sort of limbo or purgatory. Perhaps because they didn’t die naturally, their souls weren’t ready to ascend to heaven, thus leaving them trapped in the house.

Amenábar doesn’t overuse background music, but when it’s present, it’s the classic, bloodthirsty sound of violins in pain. The absence of background music emphasizes the isolation from the lack of sight to the lack of sound. Weather is used to reflect the mood of the film through the heavy fog that is prominent throughout the movie except for two scenes. One scene depicts Grace’s husband Charles return from war and the other scene at the end of the movie, when the family accepts their deaths.

The Others is an intelligent piece of cinematography that raises the bar for future supernatural/psychological horror movies. Amenábar twists everything we’ve come to expect from horror and delivers this masterpiece. This is the rare horror movie that genuinely shocks and impresses the skeptical, jaded viewer who has lost their faith in good scares. When the audience realizes that the Stewarts and the servants are ghosts, we’re horrified. The job is done. Granted, Amenábar fell short when it came to characterization, though he had great control when it came to building up to the twist. Overall, the pacing of the movie was well thought-out to maintain constant suspense. What really stands out about this movie is Amenábar’s talent for directing and storytelling, and the brilliance of the movie can only be appreciated when watching it for the second time.

-Contributed by Chindu Palakal

Crimson peak: A Gothic Romance

cpGhosts are real, that much I know.

Well, okay, I don’t know, but Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) can certainly tell you a thing or two about ghosts.

Crimson Peak is Guillermo del Toro’s newest gothic romance film, and it possesses all of his trademark film-making techniques but with a distinctive late-1800s twist. The plot seems like something out of a gothic novel, with the basic premise being reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”.

Edith Cushing, an aspiring American author and the daughter of a successful businessman, falls in love with the mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an English baronet. Their romance is complicated by the pointed glares Thomas’ older sister, Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), keeps sending their way. Throughout the Sharpe’s estate, which seems almost alive, there is a permeating feeling of wrongness, which the audience feels as well, given how fast Thomas is taken with Edith.

And therein lies the main weakness of the film.

Perhaps the plot is too Romantic. Thomas Sharpe plays the stereotypical role of the dashing male hero who woos the female protagonist, despite her somewhat humble origins. From the moment the two meet, the speed at which Thomas reads and takes an interest in Edith’s manuscript is astounding. Perhaps Thomas can teach me his ways to aid me in my readings for class?

He then proceeds to stare soulfully into her eyes, notice her presence in every frame, and even stand outside of her house, in the rain, waiting for her father to leave in order to catch her alone.

All that within just hours of meeting her.

Although this does successfully give the audience a sense of foreboding and even foreshadows the tragic nature of their relationship, the love story between the two seems to exist only to drive the plot forward.

However, del Toro must be commended for his brilliant use of coloured lighting to build upon the tension and suspense of the plot. The constant interplay between amber and cool turquoise lighting reflects the conflict between Edith and Lucille, and by extension the conflict between the mortal and supernatural.

Edith and her American home are painted in warm orange tones that liven up the atmosphere, whereas Lucille and the Sharpe mansion are both drowned in a cool dark turquoise that infringes upon yet emphasizes Edith’s glow. The bloody red colouring of the ghosts is a nice horrific touch. But more, the colour adds significance to the purpose of the ghosts as figures caught between the light and the dark. Red is a warm colour, but its connotations are gory and chilling, like the turquoise, and the very opposite of the benign cast of orange. The ghosts are frightening in form, too, but once you reflect on their function and true purpose, are they really the antagonists here?

Crimson Peak’s cinematography also stands out in its combined use of sound and timing to create anticipation. The visual and auditory cues are predictable at times, but they call back to the style of old horror flicks. The close-ups on characters, the slow crescendo, the introduction of a horror element, the breathless pause, the abrupt zoom straight into the maws of a ghost—are all inexhaustibly thrilling in the way roller-coasters are. The fun isn’t lost despite the routine.

Overall this film was a worthwhile watch, even for someone who is deathly afraid of anything horror-related (i.e., me). Before entering the cinema, my biggest concern was that the film would be a simple translation of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, but instead it brought its own cinematic magic to the table. Watch, if not for del Toro’s imagery-laden visuals, then definitely for a few glorious moments of a view of Hiddleston’s bum.

-Contributed by Stephanie Gao

Hannibal: What do you see?

Sight is the key to appreciating the design behind Bryan Fuller’s three seasons of Hannibal. Television is first and foremost a visual medium, and no show makes better use of it.

The first two seasons of Hannibal take place before the events described in the famous novels by Thomas Harris, with the third season leading into an incredible adaption of his first Hannibal novel, Red Dragon. What starts off as a killer-of-the-week cop drama slowly becomes a bloody, insane, near supernaturally charged love story between its two lead characters. Hugh Dancy stars as Will Graham, a man who can empathize perfectly with anybody and whose sense of self and reality is shaky at the best of times. Opposite Will is his psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), who enjoys philosophizing about God, eroding Will’s conception of the world, and elaborately cooking, serving, and eating people (in meals that always make guilty viewers a bit hungry).

Hannibal sees in Will the potential for a companion. He believes that Will can understand him and can share his fun of elaborately killing people. Hannibal thinks there is nobody else in the world who can see him like Will can. In effect, he falls in love. (The internet’s couple name for them, “murder husbands”, even finds its way into a line in the third season.)

The horror is apparent, but how does Hannibal fall into the realm of speculative fiction? Well, in several ways. First of all, the show itself exists in a heightened reality, one where Hannibal Lecter is an almost ineffable devil-like figure, capable of performing horrifying feats or tricks while wearing a three-piece suit. He can dash across fields, disappear without a trace, and kill countless people in increasingly elaborate ways, all in time for dinner. The show often has little time for real world logic, sacrificing what’s possible off screen for what’s beautiful on screen.

But within the logic of Hannibal, there is Will. And within Will blossoms the magical realism that places Hannibal into the realm of speculative fiction.

            “See?” is a code word in Hannibal. What Will sees is more important than the real world. Through the eyes of killers and lunatics, as well as through his own subconscious, Will sees a world far more magical (and horrifying) than our own.

What Will sees is often more important to the plot than what is real. His hallucinations (or “Willucinations” as I stubbornly call them) make up a huge part of the show. They manifest as a way to show the viewers Will’s mental or emotional states, but often Will’s visions cut to the truth of what is going on around him, like haunting specters revealing the secrets of the plot.

Throughout the first season, Will isn’t aware that Hannibal is the ultimate monster he is chasing, thinking that the man is only his tall friend who likes to cook. But Will’s subconscious knows better.

With increasing alarm, Will is haunted by visions of a stag covered in raven feathers, a replica of a small statue in Hannibal’s office. The Raven Stag follows Will, nudging him closer towards the truth, pushing him along.

Once Will discovers what Hannibal is, we are given glimpses of how Will now sees him. Will sees a Wendigo, a great, antlered black creature that eats human flesh. But still the Raven Stag haunts him, becoming a symbol not only of Hannibal but also of Will’s relationship with him. The Raven Stag bursts into flames in times of transformation, forcing Will to continue on with his question of whether to catch, kill, or embrace the cannibal.

Behind Will’s eyes, scenes of murder spring to life, time reverses, objects transform, and corpses revive. In his visions, the Wendigo becomes the Hindu god Shiva and warns Will of bloody rebirth, the Raven Stag dies to signal to Will that something bad is coming his way, and water wells up around him in bed to warn him that he is drowning in Hannibal’s influence. Whatever design Will’s madness takes, it always points Will towards the truth, to help to him understand.

Apart from Will, the only character who is explained with magic is season three’s Red Dragon himself, Francis Dolarhyde (played to terrifying effect by The Hobbit alum Richard Armitage). In Dolarhyde, we see the battle between the man and the monster within him by the shadow of wings on his back and the slither of a tail moving behind him. We know in one particular scene that Dolarhyde is beating himself up, but what we are shown, and what we understand, is that Dolarhyde is fighting the dragon. We know what is real, but we see what is true.

That is the point of magical realism in Hannibal: to help us to understand. Why tell us what’s happening or how characters feel when it’s possible to show us? Why tell us that Hannibal is the devil of Dante’s hell, when you can show his face blend with that of a painting depicting Satan in The Inferno? Why tell us that Hannibal and Will are becoming more alike when you can show us their faces and bodies melding and mirroring one another through the glass of Hannibal’s cell? We are not told; we are shown. We accept what we see, and we understand it. “Who among us doesn’t want understanding and acceptance?” Hannibal asks. And that is what the show asks of its audience: to be seen and understood.

The magic of Hannibal distorts reality so that we are forced to see these horrible acts of violence and murder as Hannibal sees them and as he wants Will to see them. Some of the displays of blood on Hannibal are uncomfortably, and undeniably, like art.

As Will admits in the very last line of the series, what we see on Hannibal is “Beautiful”.

It’s not real, but what’s real is not important. What’s important is that we see art and beauty and magic in the dark and the horrifying. We see, and we understand.

-Contributed by Ben Ghan

Emily Carroll’s Horror Spectacle: Why I Checked Under My Bed That Night

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“Unsettling” is a common word used to describe Emily Carroll’s graphic fiction these days, though perhaps it is given unjustly. “Unsettling” seems to skim the right word, but it ultimately lacks the punch her work delivers. Is there a definition for the sound of nails scraping a chalkboard? Or a word for the feeling of curling your toes anxiously, repeatedly bracing yourself in squeamish anticipation?

Is it uneasy? Queasy?

Disturbing?

In Through the Woods, Emily Carroll takes her readers on a splendid adventure of fantastical, yet highly disquieting, horror. Through the Woods builds on a great deal of Carroll’s previously established literary voice and visual footprint. This collection of five short graphic stories is her debut work in print, published in 2014, alongside her long-standing website of comics. Her writing, often characterized by a mix of lyrical verse and truncated, quick-impact sentences, is nothing shy of a master-class in how plain language can express, and incite, the most fear.

A Lady's Hands are Cold
A Lady’s Hands are Cold

The potency of Carroll’s horrific effect comes in large part from the way in which she delivers it. The “creepy factor”, so to speak, in stories like His Face All Red, The Nesting Place, and A Lady’s Hands are Cold, derives from their simplistic, often rhythmic, childish language. What may begin as deceptively lighthearted and unsophisticated often turns out to be disturbingly grim. And you discover a couple pages in that this is exactly the intent.

Much like the Grimms, it appears that Carroll understands the age-old wisdom that anything horrific told innocuously enough becomes doubly horrific.

The more Carroll’s prose and illustrations resemble a crude, childlike form, the more unsettling they become. Strangely, it is the frankness of her drawings that delivers the most nuance, because there is nowhere to hide in it. Much of her work is presented as upfront; visually speaking, Carroll suppresses a reader’s ability to hide within the vague by denying it in the first place. The lines are sharp, the colour is bold, the contrast is high, and the font is creepy.

And, while we’re on the topic—should you ever want a lesson on how colour can impact an atmosphere, this book is it.

Seriously. It is.

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Now before I close, I’d like to give a personal note from myself to any readers newly delving into Carroll’s creepy world: please, watch out for the teeth. I have yet to name it, but there is something highly unnerving about the way Carroll draws teeth, and I would bet good money that she knows it.

Read The Nesting Place, and you’ll see.

– Contributed by Lorna Antoniazzi

On The Babadook and What Truly Terrifies Us

When I was a kid, there was one book on my shelf that used to give me nightmares. It was called The Ugliest Dog in the World and it was supposed to be a funny children’s book. The story itself wasn’t what frightened me; rather, it was the book’s back cover, which featured the portrait of a screaming girl. There was something profoundly disturbing about her expression, and I will never forget it.

Jennifer Kent’s magnificent debut film, The Babadook, plays on all of our childhood fears and the traumatic aftershock of nightmares. Intensely perturbing and psychologically terrifying, Kent has truly mastered the art of horror. The film belongs to a mature subset of the horror genre, one that is more subtle, psychically perverse, and nuanced. Despite the lack of jump-scares or gore, The Babadook chills down to the bone, and leaves you unsettled for hours. Deftly incorporating excellent writing with suspenseful timing and brilliant acting, Kent has crafted one of the best horror films of this decade.

Amelia and Sam, equally troubled mother and son, are both broken by the death of husband/father, and this loss subsequently manifests as the Babadook, a physical reflection of their grief. One night, Sam asks his mother to read him a nighttime story, choosing a new book that has mysteriously appeared on his shelf. An interactive, hand-drawn, inky fable about a boogeyman of sorts, each page of the tale becomes increasingly frightening and violent. Sam becomes obsessively scared of this creature and Amelia throws the book away only to have it appear again on her doorstep with added graphic pictures.

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Like a grown-up nightmare from which one cannot wake up, the audience is thrown into the calamity of their situation, which engulfs the individual in a sort of melancholic paralysis. Unlike most scary movies that I have seen—and I have seen a lot—the lightness of the next morning does not bring forth temporary repose in The Babadook, and we are never given the chance to feel the calm of a new day. Here, Kent takes our deepest-seated anxieties, our fears, our insecurities, and exploits them to the fullest degree, breeding a sense of uneasiness that only grows stronger with each coming day.
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The physical depiction of the Babadook itself does not get a lot of screen time. In fact, the monster only appears once. But as Amelia reads, “If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” This phrase appears in the storybook and not only aptly summarizes the nature of the Babadook, but is at the very heart of what makes the movie horrifying.

While The Babadook is delightfully sinister and will give you quite the scare, the film is also impressively insightful. Kent really plays up the book aspect of the story, and at one point Amelia even vomits out ink. On a broader level, the film is exploring the impact of words, the impact of narratives, and the debilitating darkness that can eat away at you if you allow the bitterness of your grief to consume you.

We are all haunted by the Babadook—haunted by our imperfections, our weaknesses. The Babadook is in the words that cut us, in the unkind looks that we see and cannot unsee. It terrified me. It will terrify you, too.

BOO.

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