The Babysitter nearly makes up for its lack of intelligence with its action.
Netflix has been pumping out so many movies these days that 2017’s The Babysitter is practically vintage at this point. And just as its constant presence on our Netflix “Top Picks” queue is strangely reassuring, there is also something comforting about the film’s mediocrity. For every Roma and The Irishman, it seems as if there are 10 Babysitter-like flicks: fun, forgettable films from recognizable filmmakers, featuring up-and-coming talent either falling in love or getting chopped to pieces. Some cry that this is evidence of the end of cinema as we know it. The mid-budget film is dying, leaving movie theaters to show franchise flicks and nothing else. But I think it’s the opposite. Too often, filmmakers like The Babysitter’s McG (he of Charlie’s Angels and Terminator: Salvation fame) disappear after one too many Hollywood disappointments. This is particularly bad for female and minority directors, who often only get one shot at a mainstream release and find it hard to get a job if their film doesn’t make trillions of dollars for the studio. So streamers represent a place for underserved, up-and-coming and middle-grade directors to go.
The Babysitter doesn’t give us anything new or particularly amazing. But it’s swift, pretty and fun throughout. The story follows young Cole (Judah Lewis), who has a big crush on his babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving). Unfortunately for Cole, Bee is actually an evil Satanist, and she and her beautiful, scantily-clad cronies (Bella Thorne, Andrew Bachelor, Robbie Amell and Hana Mae Lee) are dead set on sacrificing him. Weaving’s Bee is a fantastically tongue-in-cheek character, and the actress puts a more-nuanced, less-evil spin on the same kind of humor in this year’s fantastic Ready or Not. Weaving’s magnetic presence in the film’s main draw, along with the over-the-top gore and vibrant neon colors (filmed beautifully by cinematographer) Shane Hurlbut).
The downside of all of this heartwarming mediocrity is that The Babysitter ends up feeling like a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s just good enough to make us want more. The talent, the slickness of the visuals and the assuredness of the humor makes it impossible not to wish for The Babysitter to take it a bit further. When you think of the truly classic horror comedies (which we ranked here), films like Evil Dead 2, Shaun of the Dead and Cabin in the Woods, two of the key elements to their success are their awareness of horror tropes and the element of surprise. The Babysitter doesn’t try hard enough with either its references or its surprises. While it is definitely self-aware, it doesn’t go any further than Scream did over 20 years ago, so more is required.
However, The Babysitter nearly makes up for its lack of intelligence with its action, which is fast paced and very well-choreographed. McG has always been an excellent director of action, and The Babysitter is no exception. In this era of shaky-cam, the clear, bloody, funny and frenetic action on display here is a welcome treat. If you’re looking for a fun bit of bloody mayhem and have 85 minutes on your hands, The Babysitter is a great way to spend your time.