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Team FYC: The Babadook for Original Screenplay

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Michael on The Babadook

Years of horror films have trained audiences how to guard against all the tricks of the genre, but Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook gets around those defenses and needles us in ways for which we aren't prepared. Kent understands that all great horror touches on some form of primal terror. Something deeper than the surface shocks. The Shining had our fear of isolation. Jaws had our helplessness in the face of nature's power. The Babadook taps into our dread of our own offspring. The fear that they might destroy our life and the fear that we may hate them. Kent’s film burrows so far under the skin you can practically hear it scrape against bone.

The Babadook's screenplay does so many things so effortlessly it’s easy to miss the scope of her achievement. Part of the reason the scares are so effective is that the film has been so convincingly grounded in reality before the horror elements creep in. If the haunting had never materialized the story could continue quite well as an affecting portrait of a struggling single mom. Kent also lands a killer ending, one that manages to leave the audience both satisfied and thoroughly unsettled. Count on your fingers how many other modern horror films pull off that trick and you will have enough digits left over to cover your eyes when The Babadook gets too terrifying.

The Babadook has been widely heralded as one of the best horror films of the new century, if not the best, yet it is all but certain to be ignored by the Academy. It deserves to join the slim ranks of Best Picture nominated horror titles alongside The Exorcist, Jaws and Silence of the Lambs, but since that is not going to happen, the least they can do is recognize Kent’s achievement in conceiving of Mr. Babadook in the first place. And after all, wouldn’t it be fitting if the story of a monster who lurks on the printed page found its recognition in the writing category?

We talked to Jennifer Kent about her brilliant debut

Other FYCs 
Original Score, The Immigrant
Supporting Actress, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl
Visual FX, Under the Skin
Cinematography, The Homesman
Outstanding Ensembles

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Reader Comments (12)

BRB, pre-ordering my ticket for this weekend.

(Awesome, awesome write-up.)

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Thanks, Margaret. The best movies often inspire the best writing.

Come back to this spot to let us know what you thought after the movie!

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Another terrific piece, Michael. This is a genre I love, and it has been really Vegematicked in the past decade or so with the onslaught of systematic remakes of the 70s movies, all sepia-toned, frenetically filmed and jump-cut up the ying-yang. You nailed what makes good horror movies--there's a core fear that anyone can relate to.

A friend just saw it and recommended it. I need to track this down today.

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Dude what is this movie I keep hearing about!?!? "The Babadook has been widely heralded as one of the best horror films of the new century, if not the best." ENOUGH SAID! I'm certainly seeing it!!

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

I'm too scared to see this but I have a relative who loves this genre and would kill for that pop-up book mentioned in a previous post. Where can I get it?

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Pam: I think it's no?

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

You can buy the pop-up book here, Pam. And I just noticed while looking that address up that the book's made it past 2000 orders so it WILL get made for sure, hooray!

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Thanks guys! Ah rats, not available until mid-2015. Next year's holiday present!

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Sadly, THE BABADOOK is ineligible for Oscar, right? Doesn't mean everybody else can't vote for it though!

December 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Glenn - the more that i think about it, probably yes. Since i believe it didn't have a qualifier before its DIRECTTV run. But who knows? these days we're always finding out about stealth qualifications. ARGH. HATE IT.

December 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR


*reenacts room trashing scene from Citizen Kane*

December 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I hope she gets a nomination for her excellent screenplay which is both a great horror movie and a psychological drama.

December 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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