The Gothic chills of The Babadook and Relic

A Terrifying Uprising

Issy MacLeod

25 Aug 21

When thinking about Australian horror, it is easy to imagine only murderous rurals and ravenous animals in a sun-baked Outback. But there is more to the genre than unforgiving landscapes and a propensity for violence. It can give us horror that is introspective, that reaches inside us and its characters, and no two films express this better than Jennifer Kent's influential horror masterpiece The Babadook and Natalie Erika James' darkly Gothic and tense debut Relic

While every film in A Terrifying Uprising is linked by the unique viewpoints of its women directors – from Raw's cannibalistic metaphor of female desire to Censor's entwining of the 1980s infamous video nasty era and industry misogyny – it is Kent and James' films that make an especially potent double feature. Linked not only by their Australian nationality, the pair of films shift their focus not towards the landscape that often defines that distant country, but towards more domestic affairs. 

Based on her own short film Monster, Kent's feature debut The Babadook is a film that - like all horror - is best experienced in the dark, on the big screen. The limited colour palette and purpose-built sets recall an expressionist style in the vein of M and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari - reflected also in the now-iconic design of the titular monster - show The Babadook is intended for more than surface-level scares. The film's consideration of motherhood and depression makes it more than a horror film; it is a family drama, a potent exploration on living with trauma and mental illness, and a Gothic revival that would interest any fans of Robert Eggers' and Ari Aster's dark fables. 

As a meditation on grief, The Babadook is elevated from monster horror to a tender portrayal of the difficulties of motherhood, brought to life by Essie Davies' defining portrayal of a grieving widow. Certainly, no one can watch her increasing paranoia and violent outbursts without thinking also about Toni Collette's similarly monstrous mother torn apart by loss in Hereditary.

This heady cocktail of scares and family drama is also found in Relic. Following in the footsteps made by The Babadook in Australian horror circuits, this Gothic tale of a haunted family home and the mother and daughter who return to it to care for the ailing matriarch of the household compliments The Babadook's own supernatural take on familial trauma. By considering the realities of living with a relative who has dementia through the metaphor of ghostly possession, Relic again elevates beyond the simple scares of a haunted home to consider how motherhood shifts and changes through its three generations of characters.

If you're undecided on what to pick from the varied scares of A Terrifying Uprising's selection, or want to expand your horror experiences beyond slashers and ghost stories, then The Babadook and Relic offer a tender yet chilling portrayal of family with all its monstrous vices. 

A Terrifying Uprising runs from 25 Aug 2021 - 27 Sep 2021, you can book tickets for it here.