Review: THE BABYSITTER
When one hears the name McG, it doesn’t exactly instantly bring horror to mind. It’s important to remember though, the man behind Charlie’s Angels is the same man who helped bring the decade plus series Supernatural to light. Now with his Netflix original in the tank, it’s easy to see that Mr. Full Throttle himself is a fan of the genre. With a slick sheen, glossy presentation and a few fountain bursts of blood, McG delivers another solid entry into Netflix’s gamut of originals and a great popcorn flick for fans of horror and fun.
The Babysitter doesn’t exactly tread new ground when it comes to plot. Harkening back to some of the best Satanic panic films of the seventies, The Babysitter tells the story of Cole Johnson, a sheltered freshman who’s coddling parents have done him no favors in the world of being a teenager. Cole wears button up shirts, avidly devours sci-fi, and is on the brink of breaking into the adolescent stages of adulthood. He is realistically crushing on his best friend-slash-next door neighbor, Melanie, but has a longtime crush and a bad case of unrequited love on his babysitter, Bee. After encouragement from Melanie, Cole decides to break out of his comfort zone and stay up late to spy on Bee, to possibly catch her in the act with a boy. When he does so, he happens upon what seems to be an innocent game of spin the bottle, and things go quickly awry. He soons discovers that Bee and her group of high school stereotypes are involved in the occult and have something much more wicked planned for the evening.
Out and out, the film is a blast. It hits the ground running with a music video style that recalls hyperkinetic horror films of late such as Detention and The Final Girls. It takes a framework that was highly relevant in the sixties and seventies, especially in the world of cinema, and gives it a millennial twist. It doesn’t rely on modern day gimmickry to relay that message, instead of filling the screen with text message bubble threads or copycat Instagram accounts it uses character dialogue to slyly remind the viewer of the day and age of the film, although it does employ some Edgar Wright style on-screen graphics. The movie hits on the vein of the zeitgeist, tapping into culturally relevant issues to create impactful laughs, and it’s a tell as to who this movie is targeting.
The cast is mostly one dimensional, save for the lead protagonist and antagonist, but the rest of the characters poke fun at standard horror tropes without ever beating the viewer over the head with it. Yes, the jock, the pretty girl and the weirdo all exist but they have some added flavor that create characters that are just different enough to be fun rather than a retread of the common cardboard cutouts usually seen in a horror affair.
Cole, played by Judah Lewis, is a representation of innocence and the nervous futility of growing up. Lewis plays the role perfectly, embodying the naive teenager who ultimately must battle through some trials and tribulations that are a violent shove into adulthood, and does so with a finely tuned sardonic wit that’s played straight and it works. Samara Weaving plays opposite Lewis, his ubercool babysitter Bee that all the boys lust after, and she bleeds charisma. Even though we know early on that she is Satan worshipping psychopath, you can’t help but like her the whole way through. Ultimately, her character ends up feeling a little less fleshed out than she could be, but Weaving is so damn likable that it ends up not hindering the film in any major way.
The supporting cast are all incredibly fun. Ken Marino and Leslie Bibb as Cole’s parents only exist for a fraction of the movie but they steal every scene they’re in with impeccable comic timing and expert delivery. The mishmash cult shines as they deliver solid one liners and pitch perfect dialogue. Bella Thorne and Robbie Amell are the more noticeable of the crew, respectively playing the narcissistic cheerleader and sociopathic athlete, but Andrew Bachelor and Hana Mae Lynn both have their own shining moments. Although not necessarily needed for much plot development, Emily Alyn Lind lends support as Melanie, and brings a bubbly exuberance that will be sure to make the nostalgic heart swell on the subjects of first kisses and schoolyard romance.
Director McG and writer Brian Duffield deserve a lot of credit for The Babysitter. It adds formulas from numerous genres and tropes within the horror world but is able to craft something that is distinctly shiny and unique. It has a lot of modern flair and is a fun twist on the home invasion genre. The Babysitter isn’t groundbreaking but it’s a damn fun film that has just enough laughs and just enough gore to keep everyone interested.