"Monster": The Short Film That Inspired "Babadook"

Updated on April 27, 2020
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Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic that writes about movies in his spare time.

Rating: 8/10

Pros:

  • Great cinematography.
  • Acting performances were good.
  • Well directed and cleverly written.
  • Editing for the film was great.

Cons:

  • Not much is revealed about the identity of the characters themselves due to time constraints of the film.

A Psychological Horror Story Like No Other

Monster is an interesting piece that is said to be the short film that The Babadook was based on. Directed and written by Jennifer Kent, the story follows what seems to be single mother, who is raising her son alone. As the small boy is playing, he claims that he killed a monster inside their house, which seems like an ordinary doll at first glance. He claims to be scared of it at one point in the story. Like most parents would react in this situation, the mother dismisses the events as a child's overactive imagination, and chalks it up to the boy seeing things to explain his irrational fear of the dark.

And in most cases if this were real life, she would most likely be right. However, this is a horror film, so things aren't that easy nor innocent. Nope, after she throws the doll into her closet, she soon discovers that the doll itself has turned into a hideous monster of unknown origins.

Frightened and unsure what's transpiring, the monster not only starts to haunt her, but it haunts her son as well. It even tryies to kill them both around the climax of the story, which prompts the mother to risk her own life standing up to the monster.

Without giving away what happens, the story never delves into why the mother is single, nor does it explain why this monster wants to kill them both. Granted, I know the story gets elaborated on in The Babadook film later on, where it's explained that the mother is a widow, and the child is allegedly reckless and ill behaved, which makes him almost hard to love. However, the child has various nightmares about a monster that tries to kill them, whom he believes is a character from one of his story books that mysteriously appeared in their house. And like the short film that this review is based on, the mother dismisses the son's claims early on as nothing more than his irrational explanation of why he's scared of the dark. And from there, the events of the story play out in very eerily similar fashion as the short film.

While I do plan to review The Babadook movie at some point, I would first like to analyze this short film first.

And given the fact that the short film doesn't have the added backstory about the mother being a widow, and the elaborate explanations that depicts how the monster itself is a metaphor for her dealing with grief over her deceased husband, I'm not going to be referencing it in this review. Instead, I'm going to be approaching this short film at face value and analyze it solely based on what's presented in the short film itself.

Therefore, if I don't mention key plot points from The Babadook film, it'll be mainly because they weren't present in the short movie it was based on due to time constraints.

For Those that wish to see the short film for themselves.

While Monster doesn't go into much detail about the characters' backstories, it's still an amazing short film for what it is, and still manages to tell a compelling story about a mother who ultimately has to put her own life at risk to protect her child.

Even though the film doesn't give us much detail as to the nature of her relationship with her son, it's implied that their relationship is tenuous at best. Sometimes the protagonist will act like a doting mother trying to protect her child, while in another scene we see the child kick his mom after she tries to convince him the monster he sees isn't real. This suggests something of a strained relationship between the child and mother that seems a bit interesting to see play out in the short film itself.

The cinematography is in black and white, as it's shot almost like an old horror movie from the fifties. The fast editing style that's implemented to showcase the monster was rather interesting; it creates an eerily creepy imagery that sticks with you long after you've seen the movie.

The story ends on a surprising note with the mother willing to sacrifice herself to save the child. While I can't say what happens without spoiling the entire film, I will say that the sequence of events that follow are a bit odd at first given how little we know about the monster itself.

However, it's heavily implied the monster is a manifestation of the mother's fears itself, and possibly something she could be hiding about her past. During the film, we often see the mother looking rather distracted in various scenes. We see her seemingly lost in deep thought while washing dishes, and again when she's giving her son a bath.

Unlike the full length theatrical film that expands on the story later, we're never given any reason as to why the mother would look so troubled throughout the film. What could she be thinking about? And why would she look so troubled? However, it's worth noting that after she confronts the monster during the climax to save her son, her demeanor changes drastically. It's as if a huge burden was lifted from her shoulders after she had confronted the beast.

This heavily implies the monster represents something more than just a mindless beast that tries to kill them. This gives fuel to the theory that the monster itself is a representation of a past that perhaps the mother doesn't want to face throughout the film, but only to come to realize if she doesn't, it could destroy her in the end.

While the short film may not be as good as the full length remake that it helped inspire, it's still an entertaining short film for what it is, and it's worth checking out for anyone who enjoys horror movies in general.

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    © 2020 Steven Escareno

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