The ‘babysitter in peril’ trope is a favourite in the horror genre. We’ve seen it before from John Carpenter’s Halloween to When a Stranger Calls. But since Wes Craven flipped the rules in Scream, horror fans have gotten smarter. We expect more from our horror movies today, not more of the same. Just over a year ago, Netflix released horror-comedy The Babysitter in October 2017. The McG-helmed horror is the latest in a line of a self-aware movies that attempt to subvert horror fans’ expectations.
Cole is your average awkward and geeky 12-year old boy. In between run-in’s with the neighbourhood bully, Cole crushes on his babysitter, Bee. Smart, attractive, and cool – she is every boy’s fantasy. When his parents leave for an overnight trip, Cole gets to spend a night watching movies and talking about alien invasions with Bee. But when his best friend encourages him to sneak downstairs after bedtime, Cole learns Bee may not be so perfect. In fact, Bee’s into worshipping Satan and ritual sacrifice. Suddenly Cole finds himself fighting to survive against a pack of teen cult members.
The Babysitter Effectively Blends Gore And Laughs
Joining recent horror-comedy successes, Deathgasm and Housebound, The Babysitter effectively blends outlandish gore with laughs. And you should expect a lot of blood-spouting madness if you watch this Netflix original. From the squishy sound effects to the frequent blood gushing, The Babysitter revels in its excesses of violence. None of this violence is rendered with the ugliness of ‘torture porn‘ or exploitation movies. The Babysitter largely strikes a subversively fun tone with its action and violence. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of lunacy of classics like The Evil Dead, it mostly strikes all the right notes.
Where The Babysitter manages to excel is in its balance of humour and blood.
The Babysitter isn’t the first movie to subvert the ‘babysitter in distress’ horror trope. It’s not even necessarily the best example in recent memory. Better Watch Out holds that distinction. But Brian Duffield’s screenplay confidently understands what tone it wants the movie to strike. As a result, the stabbings, neck-snapping, and impalement generally prompt laughs and screams as opposed to eye-rolling. You’re not likely to jump too often, but you’ll never be bored.
McG’s Excesses May Prompt Some Eye-Rolling
Director McG, aka Joseph McGinty Nichol, isn’t exactly known for subtly in his work. His filmography includes such over-the-top fare as the Charlie’s Angels movies and the oft derided Terminator Salvation. To a large extent, McG’s excesses are a perfect match for a horror comedy. As described above, his gonzo approach largely makes for fun off-the-wall craziness. But it’s this same excess that drags The Babysitter down just a little.
… The Babysitter sometimes doesn’t know when to reign it in.
At times, The Babysitter can’t help but feel like it’s trying too hard. Like that kid in high school desperate for attention, The Babysitter sometimes doesn’t know when to reign it in. In particular, McG’s periodic use of captions is almost instantly grating. It’s a bit of ‘winking and nudging’ that’s more heavy-handed than clever. Much of this can be chalked up to McG’s seeming inability to let some jokes end. He has a tendency to dwell and let things drag past their’ best by date’.
Fun Cast Livens Up The Babysitter
The Babysitter and its roller coaster ride of blood and gore is enlivened by a fun a cast. Samara Weaving absolutely steals the movie as the nearly perfect babysitter, Bee. Over the last few years, the Australian actress has turned in scene-stealing performances in several genre movies including Mayhem and Bad Girl. In The Babysitter, Weaving gives a far more layered performance than you’d expect to find in this sort of movie. Courtesy of this performance, Bee ends up as a far more enigmatic and, as a result interesting villain.
Everyone else in The Babysitter looks like they’re having blast. Robbie Amell subverts his ‘dumb jock’ character role with a wonderfully offbeat performance. Andrew Bachelor isn’t in the movie nearly enough, but he makes the most of his screen time with some of the best dialogue delivery. Though child actors can be hit or miss, Judah Lewis nails his role making the perfect foil for Samara Weaving’s Bee. He gives a performance that convinces he’s your typical precocious boy.
The Babysitter is a Horror Winner for Netflix
Not everything about The Babysitter works as intended. Some of its attempts at humour feel forced and strained. Nevertheless, McG’s horror-comedy is mostly fun, streamlined mayhem that never bores. It’s in no small part assisted by another fantastic performance from Samara Weaving and a fun supporting cast. With decent gore effects, snappy editing, and a quick pace, The Babysitter holds up to multiple viewings.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B+