Hands down, babysitting is one of the worst jobs in horror movies. Halloween. When a Stranger Calls. The Babysitter. Better Watch Out. The House of the Devil. Annabelle Comes Home. And those are just the more notable examples. In horror movies, babysitting should come with hazard pay. One could almost consider the ‘babysitter in peril’ horror movie to be i’s own subgenre. With so many movies using the trope a director would need to add a wrinkle or two to the formula. So for his ‘babysitter in peril’ movie, Babysitter Must Die, director Kohl Glass throws in a killer cult, Christmas, and the world’s most prepared babysitter to try and shake things up. But is it enough to make this ‘ movie stick out?
Though it’s Christmas and all her friends are out partying, Josie is still taking babysitting jobs. But before the pizza’s delivered on her latest job, the parents come home early and Josie’s night looks like it’s over. And that’s when things go horribly wrong. Instead of the pizza delivery guy, a knock at the door signals a night of horrors. Three strangers burst through the door, taking the family hostage, and threatening a human sacrifice. Only Josie escapes their attention, hiding in the house, and waiting for a chance to fight back.
Babysitter Must Die Can’t Settle On a Tone
Recent ‘babysitter in peril’ horror movies have made concerted efforts to subvert our expectations. Both The Babysitter (and it’s inferior sequel) and Better Watch Out added irreverent humor and flipped the source of the threat to freshen things ups. Comparatively, Babysitter Must Die can’t seem to make up its mind about what direction it wants to take. Early in the movie, director Kohl Glass seems to want to borrow McG’s visual techniques from The Babysitter. Glass freezes the screen to flash Josie’s merit badges like it’s a videogame. And Glass’ screenplay, co-written with Julie Auerbach and Kevin Tavolaro, has some deadpan humor, Babysitter Must Die never fully commits to the same outrageous humor. In fact, the movie is often deadly serious, which feels wholly incongruent with some of its creative choices.
There’s a lack of scares and very little suspense to be wrung from a premise that’s been beaten to death.
But Babysitter Must Die doesn’t get its more serious elements right either. We’ve seen plenty of home invasion and killer cult movies along with the ‘babysitter in peril’ flicks. Not only is there nothing really new to see here, what Glass puts on screen isn’t particularly compelling. There’s a lack of scares and very little suspense to be wrung from a premise that’s been beaten to death. Moreover, Glass never delivers on any of the bloody revenge the movie seems to promise audiences. Instead, Babysitter Must Die delivers some pretty tame ‘victim fights back’ fare. All of this unfolds against a constantly shifting tone.
Babysitter Must Die Leaves Its Best Ideas on the Table
What’s particularly frustrating about Babysitter Must Die is that there is a potentially interesting idea somewhere in the movie. Things open with a prologue that promises at least an intriguing cult and system of worship. Our cult members sacrifice parts of their own bodies to devote themselves to their cause. And Glass teases something about an important box hidden in house’s walls. Unfortunately, Babysitter Must Die does little with these ideas. Once Josie starts fighting back against the intruders, Glass reverts to formulaic home invasion tropes. Like movie’s tone, Babysitter Must Die can’t seem to decide on what it wants to be.
Unfortunately, Babysitter Must Die does little with these ideas.
Most of the cast is competent. As our super-babysitter, Riley Scott is perfectly fine in the role. Though she looks a little old to be babysitting that’s kind of the point of her character. But she never breaks out with the role like Samara Weaving did in The Babysitter. Simply put, Scott plays a more convincing ‘babysitter in peril’ than the ‘victim who fights back’. As for the house intruders, it’s a bit more of a mixed bag. Nathan Stevens feels a bit wooden though he looks menacing, while Melinda Yeaman is fine as ‘The Woman’ but not entirely convincing as a threat. In a mostly silent role, Nic Fitzgerald is a physically imposing presence
A Serviceable, if Unremarkable, Babysitter-in-Peril Movie
All in all, Babysitter Must Die is a watchable low-budget horror movie from start to finish. No, Glass, Auerbach, and Tavolaro don’t seem to know what kind of horror movie they wanted to make. Tonally, Babysitter Must Die is unfocused to say the least. And there’s little in the way of scares, gore, or compelling villains. Some of the movie’s more potentially interesting story directions are left unexplored. Yet in spite of these problems, Babysitter Must Die paces its serviceable thrills and never overstays its welcome. Consider this indie horror to be a rainy day movie if you’ve seen everything else.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C