By Chris Campo
Netflix has been celebrating Halloween like crazy lately. It's almost like they're holding their own Scary Movie Month (RIP). Not only have most of their add-ons this month been horror films, but they have a handful of original horror films/thrillers debuting, such as Little Evil, Geralds Game, Stranger Things Season 2 and McG's latest film, The Babysitter. I have a notoriously bad relationship with Netflix original films... I despise most of them. There are only a handful that I have actually finished. Still, I gave The Babysitter a chance. I knew little of it and was in the mood for a new horror-comedy. The best of this genre usually come from obscurity, so who knows...
Twelve year old Cole (Judah Lewis) is pretty mature for his age. He watches R-rated movies, he has a huge IQ, he has strong opinions on Mad Men, and shows many other traits of a responsible young man. However, due to his fear of just about anything that isnt make-believe, his parents leave him with a babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving), whenever they leave the house. The embarrassment of being the only kid on the block who still has a babysitter is made bearable by the fact that Bee and Cole happen to be pretty close, or even full on buddies.
When Cole's best friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) informs him that Bee probably brings a boy over to have sex with once Cole is finally asleep, Cole makes the decision to stay up past 10 p.m. to see if this is in fact true. On that night, Bee doesn't have have one guy over, she has three, and two other girls. Cole's initial thoughts are that they are all here for an orgy, but in actuality they are performing a human sacrafice, and Cole's innocent blood is the last thing they need to complete it.
What follows is a Home Alone style horror-comedy film that is literally never even remotely scary and only sometimes funny. Don't get me wrong, the film has its moments, but I couldn't look past the overall lack of polish and half baked ideas, both in the script and the direction. I think with a few more revisions and a director who's better at balancing tones, this could have been something special. Sure, it's a dumb premise, but it's unique. These types of films have worked before. Just look at something like Zombieland, or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.
The best horror-comedies actually manage to pull off genuine fear or terror in some scenes, or at the very least some suspence here and there. This film is not scary, nor suspenseful, and even lacks any decent jump scares. Jump scares usually aren't appreciated, but I would take them over stale scenes of comedic gore-splatter that's filmed with no sense of horror. There is a lot of gore, it's over the top and silly, and when it first hits, it's semi-effective as a tool of shock value. Although, the blood-letting consistently looks quite good, its shocking nature wears off after the second or third death. The Rube Goldberg style of the deaths are sometimes clever and inspired, but they often feel too... written.
The writing is really poor here. Sure, there are more than a few good laughs throughout, and the premise has promise, but for the most part, the situations and dialogue feel forced and the story is half baked. The grand finale is forshadowed very early on and instead of feeling rewarded for paying attention, I just watched the screen and thought to myself, "Oh, okay. I get it". There's no real surprises. Even the post credit stinger feels like a last minute addition by the screenwriter to hopefully secure a job writing the sequel. That stinger, plus most of the twists or surprises, just makes you want to face palm. If you are easy to point out plot holes, you will have a field day here. While most of the dialogue is atrocious, I do appreciate the long scene where a character explains why a xenomorph would be the perfect teammate on a mission to save the world.
I feel like a dumb script can be worked around by a talented and commited director, but McG does nothing to elevate the sophomoric and lazy script. It feels as if McG filmed each line of dialogue once, turned up the colour saturation, added annoying, distracting overlays of text or images to nail home a joke, added loud music and called it picture-locked. His direction is just as lazy as the script. I can't tell if McG is trying to be Michael Bay or Edgar Wright, because several scenes look and feel like a poor man's versions of scenes both those filmmakers would've directed. For example, there's a scene where everything is edited to music (Wright), or one where a firework sets off a huge slow-mo explosion (Bay).
If McG made one good decision, it's the casting of the young lead, Judah Lewis. This kid is genuinely endearing, and while most of his lines are obvious and on the nose, he delivers them with the perfect combination of optimism and sarcastic naïveté. The film's best moments are when Cole is just doing his thing. This kid's a star, even if the rest of the cast are pretty average. Bella Thorne sticks out as a unbearable and loud sore thumb. Her arc is so eye-roll inducing and she does no favours for it. There are two notable comedic performances by Ken Marino and Leslie Bibb as Cole's parents, who get the film's best laugh towards the climax.
The Babysitter is a misfire, but a misfire that could have been something special with more love from the writer and director. There are some moments and gags where there looks to be a silver lining approaching, but at the end of the day, or the end of the film for that matter, everything falls flat. As a fan of horror films, I can't reccomend this film during the halloween season, or any season. If you're really curious, maybe just look up a compilation of the kill scenes and the very few funny moments.
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