Newspaper article International New York Times

Horror in a Pop-Up Book ; 'The Babadook,' a Prop for a Ghost Film, May Have a Life of Its Own

Newspaper article International New York Times

Horror in a Pop-Up Book ; 'The Babadook,' a Prop for a Ghost Film, May Have a Life of Its Own

Article excerpt

For the film "The Babadook," the writer-director Jennifer Kent created, with the help of the illustrator Alex Juhasz, a real pop- up book for filming.

"If it's in a word, or it's in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook."

That chilling warning is delivered in a pop-up book that might not make the best bedtime reading for children. The mysterious red volume and its creepy protagonist factor heavily into the Australian horror film "The Babadook," the debut feature of the writer- director Jennifer Kent.

The film, which has been making the festival circuit this year and opens Friday in New York, follows a mother (Essie Davis) struggling to raise her young son (Noah Wiseman) after the death of her husband. As difficulties mount and the boy's anxieties increase, a book appears on the family's shelf. With monochrome imagery and a poetic rhyme scheme, it tells of a dark, top-hat-wearing creature who makes rumbling sounds and knocks three times to announce his presence. As the book continues, its visuals get more intense and the pop-ups more frightening. More than simply a scary tale, the book is a metaphor for the demons that lurk in the mother's psyche and that she must confront.

"I latched onto this idea of facing the darkness," Ms. Kent said in a phone interview. "I wanted to tell the story of a woman who was forced to face the unfaceable."

Ms. Kent came up with the creature's name, Mister Babadook. "I wanted something that gave me license to create my own myth," she said. "And I needed it to sound like a child had made it up.

"It sounds silly, but as you watch the film, that thing starts to take on some meaning and becomes more and more sinister."

For the book's mood, Ms. Kent was inspired by the 1920s silhouette animation of Lotte Reiniger. She approached the designer and illustrator Alex Juhasz, who worked on the pop-up opening credits for Showtime's "The United States of Tara," and asked him to come up with illustrations, giving him liberty with the design. …

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