October is the perfect month to binge on horror movies. As an avid horror film watcher, I welcome seeing whatever Hollywood (and the B horror movie community) tries to throw at us next. With Halloween right around the corner, the first slate of movies are starting to come out, like the recent slasher flick Happy Death Day. Netflix is getting into the game with their recent release of The Babysitter, a campy horror-comedy directed by McG (Supernatural TV Series) and written by Brian Duffield (Insurgent). At first glance, The Babysitter’s basic horror stereotypes and abundance of boob jokes, blood and brainless characters might seem like just another generic teen horror entry, but its self-aware campiness and willingness to play off those horror tropes (and mock them) is what makes this a bloody good time.
The Babysitter takes us into the nightly adventure of Cole (Judah Lewis), a petrified 12 year old scared of bullies, needles and anything that could be even remotely dangerous. We spend time learning a bit of the character, like how he’s picked on, how his parents are trying to save their marriage with romantic weekends, and his not-so-subtle saccharine crush on the girl-next-door, Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind). At the center of the tale, however, is his friendship with his cool-as-hell teenage babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving). Immediately, we’re meant to fall in love with Bee as much as Cole does. She stands up for him to the bully, she has wicked knowledge of geeky facts, and she does cool things like setup a movie projector in the backyard – Bee is portrayed as the “super cool” babysitter we’d all love to have back when we were kids. And, to an extent, she is. You know, before all hell breaks loose.
After his parents head out for a night away, and urged on by Melanie to stay up late to spy on Bee’s nightly activities, Cole witnesses her performing a satanic ritual with her friends. Here, we’re introduced to the other cult members who make up the ensemble cast. There’s Max (Robbie Amell), the shirtless football jock, Allison (Bella Thorne), the cheerleader, John (Andrew Bachelor), the comic relief, and Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), her sadistic fashionable follower. All four characters are inspired by generic horror personalities that, if you’ve ever watched at least one slasher flick in your life, you’ve seen these character archetypes before. With Bee at the helm, this group of five plots to finish their satanic ritual and kill Cole after they discover he knows what they’re doing. Suffice it to say, we follow Cole as he tries to survive the night.
From the plot alone, The Babysitter sounds like just another teen slasher flick. And it utilizes MANY of the same tropes to push the story forward and ground the movie’s theme in horror. However, what The Babysitter does differently is celebrate these moments and tropes with a “smile and wink” mentality to the audience who have come to expect these clichés. This is where The Babysitter is at its strongest. Moments like when Cole witnesses the ritual, we see a large “WHAT THE F***” sprayed over his face, or when he whips out the pocket knife to cut the ropes, words appear to break the fourth wall. I enjoyed these touches because the film tried to add self-aware humor toward its own campiness. At its core, The Babysitter aligns itself more as a horror-comedy, similar to that of The Final Girls, than rooted solely in dark horror.
The Babysitter had a tendency to blatantly setup plot points that you knew would come back later in the film. Obviously Bee teaching the attack move to Cole or the location of a weapon was going to be important somehow – the film wanted us to know this. As a viewer, it took the fun out of the surprise because I came to expect that it would reappear when a character was in a specific location. And I don’t even want to start about the main trailer for The Babysitter. It was a good trailer, but it spoiled key plot points and deaths from the film.
In between all of the excessive blood and boob jokes, there were cinematic moments that I give credit to the cast and crew. McG’s choices to incorporate a slower background whenever Cole and Melanie were together showed the tenderness of their friendship/crush, and the stylish animations introducing the cult added campiness when learning about these villains. But really…a foggy night in Cole’s backyard? Where does he live to have that much fog?! Cole and Bee’s early scenes together were the strongest scenes; the actors had good chemistry together and it showed a real friendship between them. And, for as much as the cult characters were cliché, the cast did what they could with them to give some life to one dimensional villains.
The Babysitter isn’t a ground-breaking horror-comedy. Predecessors like The Final Girls, or the more horror-inclined Scream, do a better job at poking fun at classic horror movie tropes. However, this is a fun flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it gives us more to enjoy than only the tired clichés we’re meant to *not* expect.