Released 13th October
Seen 14th November
Directed by McG
Written by Brian Duffield
Produced by Boies/Schiller Film Group, New Line Cinema & Wonderland Sound and Vision
Starring Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne & Andrew Bachelor
The character of the babysitter in a horror film is one of the more common tropes. Usually, the babysitter is the victim of the crazy man going around the town killing people. This was the case in the classics like Halloween or When A Stranger Calls where the main protagonist of the film was a babysitter. The Babysitter asks a very simple question, “What would happen if the babysitter was the antagonist instead of the protagonist?”. Turns out the answer, much like an overused Facebook status, is “It’s complicated”
The Babysitter follows the story of Cole (Played by Judah Lewis), a scared boy with a lot of problems including bullies, an inability to drive a car and being regularly called a pussy. Basically, his life sucks except for one thing. His babysitter Bee (Played by Samara Weaving) who is always there for him to give him advice or just make him feel like less of a kid when they hang out while his parents are off at a hotel having sex. One night Cole stays up late and sneaks out to see Bee with a bunch of her friends. Things turn a little sour when they sacrifice a random guy they picked up in order to appease the devil and Cole now has to survive a night with five fairly crazy 20-somethings who want to kill him… not an easy night for a 12-year-old.
Much like Snatched, this film takes a solid half an hour to become interesting and that’s a little longer than a film like this really should. Some of the jokes really just don’t work and feel out of place, such as one ‘joke’ where Cole and his friend Melanie (Played by Emily Alyn Lind) are talking at the front of the bus while everyone behind them is in slow motion. There is no valid reason for this other than the director knowing how to make the shot work and thinking it looks cool. It might if there was a purpose to it, but it’s one of those shots that’s done for no reason related to the plot. Whenever there’s a montage sequence every shot ends with a couple of seconds as a still frame, a weird choice that just stops happening about half an hour into the movie and is not really a good idea for a movie that’s being made for a streaming service… or a movie in general, it’s a stupid shot idea that is stupid. This also applies to the random style changes between cheesy slasher flick and text overlays lifted right out of a Grindhouse double feature. I really don’t need a large bit of text saying “POCKET KNIFE” when the main character is holding a pocket knife. I’m not an idiot movie, I know what a pocket knife looks like, I really don’t need pointless on-screen text to tell me that.
Once the half hour mark passes through the film does pick up and we get a lot of good performances, in particular by Robbie Amell and Andrew Bachelor in the roles of Max and John respectively. Both of them provide some of the funnier moments with their performances and give us a fun homicidal maniac character and a guy who is well aware of how cops will react to him as a black man and both characters are pretty damn fun. I also really enjoyed Hana Mae Lee as Sonya because she basically took her Pitch Perfect character and turned the crazy up to 11, I always love someone who completely commits to a bit and boy does she commit.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it’s scattershot as hell, it throws everything at the wall and sees what sticks and it doesn’t matter if that fits tonally with the rest of the scene. That text overlays that I mentioned do not really fit in the film, they happen 4 times and 2 of them are about that pocket knife… in a different text (I’ve never felt the need to screenshot stuff to prove a point before but this, I need to do it.
When the jokes are thrown in regardless of whether or not they fit the context of the film, it doesn’t work. Cutting from style to style really doesn’t work when you’re trying to do this kind of comedy as it’s not really a parody of multiple films, it’s a parody of a genre like what Mel Brooks used to do. The difference is that Mel’s films were consistent even when he was throwing every joke out there, something that worked in Blazing Saddles was not going to work in Young Frankenstein. The Babysitter is more like a slight upgrade of films like Date Movie which pick about a half dozen films to lift from and copy their style while they’re parodying that specific film before moving to a completely different style later on.
When the film works though it’s a lot of fun, there’s a particular scene where Robbie Amell’s character tries to help the main kid face his bully literally seconds after Robbie tried to kill him and it’s kind of amazing, it’s the kind of joke that really works and if all the jokes had been like that we’d have something here. The film can be enjoyable, everything from the 30-minute mark onward isn’t that bad and I will admit that I laughed at a fair few moments but the films inability to remain consistent and it’s bizarre visual choices just make it a confusing watch in the end. Not a bad watch because there’s still something here that’s fun, but it’s confused and needed a lot more work.