The Babysitter: Dream girls can turn into nightmares.
The Babysitter movie review: Not a film for the faint of heart, or those easily offended, but McG’s Netflix horror comedy, starring Samara Weaving as a Satanic girl next door, has the makings of a cult classic.
Director – McG
Cast – Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino
Rating – 3.5/5
A few years ago – back in 2009 – a film called Jennifer’s Body arrived in theatres, and only a couple of weeks later, after having failed to make much of an impression, it vanished into thin air. Not many have invoked its name in the decade that has passed. Fewer have seen it at all – which is as strange now as it was back then. You’d think a movie starring Megan Fox as an ‘evil jock concubine’ who eats men (literally) would have found an audience at home. But no.
But there’s a reason why Jennifer’s Body has suddenly risen from the dead, and sauntered its way into this review. I’m a fan, but that’s beside the point. However, while watching the utterly bonkers new Netflix Original film, The Babysitter, only one film came into my mind, repeatedly, like a long-forgotten nightmare back for seconds: Jennifer’s Body.
On the surface, both films are coming-of-age stories that feature ‘hot girls’ – the sort that only seem to exist in the movies, all blonde and no brains – making a pact with the devil to further their evil careers or whatever. Which is, essentially, the central premise of The Babysitter.
If Ron Weasley were tasked with describing the movie’s main character, I’d be willing to wager some premium butterbeer, he’d call him a ‘specky git’ – which is a far more loaded description than it seems. Besides the obvious image that it paints of a weak-kneed pre-teen who’s probably very good at school, but just as bad at evading bullies, it places the subject into a very specific position in the high school social structure. And that’s where Cole (Judah Lewis), our main man, finds himself.
He’s bullied, routinely, often with eggs – we see it happen several times in the first few scenes – and he doesn’t seem to have too many friends. He basically only hangs out with a girl from his neighbourhood, who’s just as awkward as he is, so that’s not going to be of any help. But – and this is one of the movie’s many unique takes on the several tropes it subverts – he doesn’t really want to move up in life, he doesn’t necessarily want respect. He just wants to be left alone. He is, as his babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving), describes him, an ‘innocent’.
And it is this very innocence that unfortunately makes Cole the perfect candidate for the Satanic ritual Bee is planning that evening, when Cole’s parents would be away for their scheduled monthly ‘sex sessions’ at the nearby Hilton.
She arrives on time, and like the movie, settles comfortably into a very quirky – albeit considerably foul-mouthed – tone, nailed in a couple of pitch-perfect scenes, by Brian Duffield’s pop-culture obsessed screenplay. It’s filled with deeply satisfying geeky references (The Godfather Part II, Star Trek, all hilariously name dropped) and genuine moments of warmth.
Soon, though, it’s time for Cole to go to bed. And when the clock strikes 10 (or 11, I don’t remember, but it sounds more ominous this way), Bee’s friends – one from each high school clique – come knocking on the door. There’s the jock (Robbie Amell), the cheerleader (Bella Thorne), the token black guy (King Bach), an Asian goth chick (Hana Mae Lee) and a nerd (Doug Haley). They begin a game of truth or dare – as you do – and very soon, one of them is being sacrificed at the altar of Satan, with two knives sticking out of his head, and a steady stream of his blood being chugged out of ornate chalices.
Trouble is, Cole heard the ruckus and witnessed all of it. And that’s the precise plot development that hurls us headfirst into a deliriously over-the-top cat and mouse tale that’s not only a pastiche of several horror movie staples, but a surprisingly sure-footed one, directed, of all people, by McG.
And to be quite honest, I didn’t think he had it in him. Nothing he has ever done before – two Charlie’s Angels movies, Terminator Salvation, a Luc Besson hack job, and having his authority utterly undermined by Christian Bale – ever suggested that his finest hour would be a teen horror comedy. At 85 minutes, it moves at a clip; there’s barely a moment that goes by in which someone isn’t having their head caved in, their boob shot at, or their skull sliced open.