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The praise for writer-director Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook may have reached critical mass this week when William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, tweeted that he had “never seen a more terrifying film,” while placing it in the scare pantheon alongside Psycho and Alien. His praise comes on the heels of an endorsement by Stephen King and numerous critics hailing it as the best horror film in years.
The film — about a widowed mother struggling with her six-year-old’s fear of a monster — has made the Aussie filmmaker a hot commodity in Hollywood. After being courted by top talent agencies and managers, Kent has taken a number meetings about directing studio projects and has twice flown back to Sydney with a “copious amount” of scripts to read.
Kent, who took 10 years to make The Babadook, tells The Hollywood Reporter she’s anxious to get back behind the camera, but that considering the time and energy that goes into making a film — especially with the precision with which she made this one — she’s being choosy. One thing Kent is clear about is that she isn’t interested in making a straight-up drama.
“There’s a snobbery around ‘genre films’ being perceived in a certain way,” explains Kent. “That’s why I shy away from using the term ‘horror,’ because it can be a reductive term. I think people expect, ‘Oh, I made this horror film, so now I can make a serious film,’ but for me [The Babadook] is a serious film.”
Kent would welcome the opportunity to make another genre film, including another horror film, but she’s also partial to Westerns and sci-fi. It ultimately comes down to the script and the ability to create complex female characters.
“I don’t feel my gender when making films,” says Kent, “but the way women are portrayed in cinema is very one-note and not complex. I’m not just limited to films with women in them, but I know I made a commitment to myself early on that if I was going to write something, I’d write it largely from a female perspective. I’ve been offered a number of films in America that I’ve turned down because they didn’t resonate.”
Kent continues to work on two original scripts, but remains extremely open to jumping aboard a major studio release: “This last trip was so exciting because there are a number of projects that are intriguing and I need to just read them.”
The Babadook is currently in theaters and on VOD.
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