THE BABYSITTER (NETFLIX) (2017)
SYNOPSIS: When Cole stays up past his bedtime, he discovers that his hot babysitter is part of a satanic cult that will stop at nothing to keep him quiet.
Imagine ‘Home Alone’ with a hot babysitter who turns out to be the leader of a satanic cult, and you’ll get the idea just what ‘The Babysitter’ is.
Intended through and through as a horror comedy that you’re never supposed to take seriously, this low-key soon-to-be cult classic is one of the most fun we’ve had watching a genre flick in recent time.
Part of the fun is discovering its nasty twists and turns, so we’ll be brief enough here to let you find out for yourself just how wonderfully bizarre it gets. Our protagonist is 12-year-old teenage nerd Cole (Judah Lewis), whose timidity goes from bullies to needles to driving cars to just about anything remotely dangerous. The opening scenes establish Cole’s circumstances – his crush on the girl-next-door Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind), his parents’ weekend (read: sex) therapy intended to save their failing marriage, and last but not least his super-hot and super-cool (she knows all her pop-culture references from ‘Alien’ to ‘Star Trek’ to ‘The Godfather Part II’) babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving).
On one of his bus trips to school, Melanie suggests that Cole stay up past his bedtime to find out just what Bee does in his house after he falls asleep, speculating that someone as attractive as Bee would probably invite her friends over for an orgy. The truth however is much, much worse than that – in fact, Bee happens to be the mastermind of a cult which intends to use Cole’s supposedly ‘pure’ blood to make the dark spells in her evil book come to life. The members of her cult are deliberate stock types, including the shirtless football jock Max (Robbie Armell), the bimbotic cheerleader Allison (Bella Thorne), the freaky chick Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), the ‘black’ jokester John (Andrew Bachelor) and the nerdier-than-Cole nerd Samuel (Doug Haley).
Over the course of that fateful night, heads will be stabbed, boobs will be shot, eyeballs will be gouged, jugulars will be severed and plenty of blood will be spilled. The gore is obviously calculated to go completely over-the-top, so those squeamish are best advised to get something to cover their eyes. But there is method in McG’s wackiness, and you’ll admire just how deftly he and writer Brian Duffeld play on conventional horror tropes for maximum laughs. There is utter self-awareness in how each one of the supporting characters play up their archetypal roles; ditto the occasional use of big text to describe just what a certain character is thinking – for instance, when Cole first witnesses the ritual from on top of the stairs, his eyes widen in disbelief and the words ‘WHAT THE F**K’ appear over his face. It borders on parody all right, but that’s the very point of this exercise.
That said, there is a sweet and surprisingly sentimental centre at the heart of the chaos, and that is thanks to Weaving and Lewis. Both have an almost too-cool sensibility between them that keeps you rooting for them, so much so that the ending actually ends up touching a rather tender spot even as things get awfully complicated between them. Weaving doesn’t appear as much in the movie as we’d hoped (especially the parts when Lewis’ character Cole is fighting the rest of her friends one by one by himself) but Lewis ably holds his own as the terrified teenager who proves his resourcefulness and smarts as he takes on the invaders on his home turf.
Honestly, we’d never expected to like ‘The Babysitter’ as much as we did. It may look like some campy horror, it may look like yet another product of McG’s excesses, but there is both method and even genius to the madness. It also breezes by in less than one-half hours, so all that humour, scares, tension and bloodletting is compressed into a fast, furious and furiously entertaining roller-coaster ride. If you’re looking to be amused and scared at the same time this Halloween, then this little unassuming classic-in-the-making will do the tricking-and-treating just fine. .
Review by Gabriel Chong