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THE BABADOOK Proves Jennifer Kent is Ready for More With THE NIGHTINGALE

THE BABADOOK Proves Jennifer Kent is Ready for More With THE NIGHTINGALE

Editor’s Note: this story contains spoilers (at the end) for The Babadook. Please read at your own discretion but don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Writer/director of The Babadook, Jennifer Kent, has announced her next project, and by all accounts it will be wildly different than the last. Her first film—the aforementioned horror insta-classic—broke conventions in myriad ways with its central conceit and fresh emotional ground, setting the bar fairly high for what comes next. Given the news about Kent’s new revenge thriller, The Nightingale, we’re pretty confident in her ability to do something different; after all, The Babadook was so much more than a monster movie. It electrified the idea of what horror can represent.

According to a new report from Deadline, Kent’s upcoming film will be set in Tasmania in 1825 and follow “a beautiful 21-year-old Irish female convict who witnesses the brutal murder of her husband and baby by her soldier master and his cronies. Unable to find justice, she takes an Aboriginal male tracker with her through the hellish wilderness to seek revenge on the men, and gets much more than she bargained for.” Aisling Franciosi (Lyanna Stark from Game of Thrones) will star as the female convict while Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games) will play (we’re guessing) the murderous soldier. A premise like that seems pretty solidly exciting with anyone at the helm, but made doubly so when you consider Kent’s masterful hand at making the extraordinarily grim feel relatable and tangible. (To say nothing about what it means to represent the inner lives of mothers as something more than maternal.)

Consider this: The Babadook was just as much an allegory for tangible real life problems as it was a creepy monster flick. Kent used the titular baddie as a physical manifestation of the grief, depression, and pain people have to deal with every day. In it, Essie Davis’ Amelia struggled with loneliness, depression, the loss of her husband, and the general stress of single motherhood. Instead of relying on jump scares or predictable music queues (if memory serves, there was only one), the fright involved in the film comes from a painfully slow burn of suspense, anxiety, and our doubt in Amelia’s sanity.

The Babadook is a monster that torments its victims once they become aware of its existence and is said to be something, “you can’t get rid of.” It’s only when Amelia faces her pain and recognizes the shitty hand she’s been dealt as something she can’t ignore that the Babadook can be controlled. Not defeated, not destroyed, but managed. It’s a physical manifestation of the very real emotions at the heart of the story—something that easily translates to a thriller about a convict on the hunt for justice. Consider the end of the film (THREE YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT), where Amelia is shown getting on with life alongside her pain and grief choosing to accept the Babadook—that sort of pain is hard to translate to the screen, but Kent did it masterfully, deftly navigating the shades of moral and emotional gray that come along with accepting the darkness in one’s self (and not letting it control her or negatively affect her relationship with her son).

Kent wrote her Babadook characters with a striking amount of realism which allowed her film to say so much more than your average horror movie.  So imagine what she’ll be able to do with a murderous revenge tale set in some of the darkest hours of Tasmania’s history (1825 was the beginning of The Black War, a conflict that decimated the Aboriginal Tasmanian population). Set in a time where horrible violence was commonplace ratchets up the tension to something certainly akin to horror, if not directly informed by it. And in creating and utilizing her skills in this way, we’re sure to be in for one hell of a story.

What are your hopes for The Nightingale? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

Image: IFC Films

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