Directed by McG
If you were told “McG directed a horror comedy for Netflix that subverts home invasion tropes and is a certified blast,” would you believe it? Would you be shocked and awed? Of course. Netflix still doesn’t promote originals like The Babysitter as studios like WB or Universal might. I’d be surprised if anyone knew Brian Duffield’s script had even been snagged off the yearly screenplay Black List – but rescued it has been. Netflix even splurged for a seductive, neon-sweet poster that nails McG’s house-party-gone-hazardous tone. Maybe they’re coming around on the ideals of eye candy promotion? This October is just full of surprises so far, and The Babysitter may be one of the most notable.
Judah Lewis stars as an immature, anxiety-riddled bully target named Cole. He’s terrified of driving, defines himself as a “pussy” and still requests a babysitter – but who wouldn’t when your sitter looks or acts like Bee (Samara Weaving)? So – like with any other planned adult getaway (parents played by Leslie Bibb and Ken Marino) – Bree steps in to hold the fort while Mom and Dad enjoy some deserved alone time. Cole and Bree chat about who they’d pick for their Intergalactic Dream Team (Jeff Goldblum from Independence Day, my girl) and nosh on homemade pizza. The perfect night – until Cole goes to bed and Bree invites some friends over. Spin the bottle leads to a blood sacrifice, then sights shift towards Cole. Can he man-up and survive the night?
On the surface, early scenic schoolyard shots tease a typical nerds vs. plastics struggle for poor Cole. Hell, the film’s title card cues perfectly with Cole getting slo-mo socked by a thrown basketball in gym class (a soccer ball later). Cole is a loser in stereotypical regard and The Babysitter is all about an outsider conquering his fears. Nothing groundbreaking, but McG has an absolute blast telling one boy’s coming-of-age through satanic means. Even if neighbors never show concern, fog rolls like a bayou bog and reality requires suspension.
Aesthetically, McG’s tendency to overuse mainstream needle drops strikes more times than Chucky could stab you in thirty seconds. Drake (cul-de-sac thugs), Jay-Z (bitches and problems), Limp Bizkit (badass Cole moments), Queen (a champion’s song), Taylor Swift (lame dad taking back his coolness) – background music is playlist-shuffle random, but cheekily addicting. Shane Hurlbut’s cinematography helps by frantically adapting to fit current moods – Cole’s chipper point of view when safe, ghost-hunter front perspective when panicked – while McG manipulates characters who are audacious and shallow enough to push superficial comedic boundaries without ever crossing lines; energy spiked like a lit firework we can’t wait to see explode.
This is, in large part, due to a tremendously meanstreak-loving cast. It all starts with Samara Weaving – your new favorite genre it girl – who dances the line between geeky and cool with effortless charm. She’s a fitting crush for any pubescent teen to obsess over, and a damn intimidating force when it comes to her knockoff Necronomicon usage. Rescuing Cole when classmates strike, crazy-eyed yet still coldly composed when harvesting blood, but always deceptively – or genuinely – connected to Lewis’ Cole. Their relationship is complicated, but Weaving navigates emotions that range from final girl to black magic villain as a genre veteran – plus she’s the life of McG’s bloodthirsty midnight massacre.
Looking further, her crew plays their respective parts like supporting rockstars. Robbie Amell as Max, the shirtless A-bro-combie heartthrob who’s there to flex abs and kill free-for-all style (greatest running joke is NO ONE KNOWS WHY HE’S SHIRTLESS but there’s never a complaint). Hana Mae Lee as Sonya, the meek, beret-wearing psychopath who gets off on death and pets tarantulas. Andrew Bachelor as John, an aspiring rapper modeled largely after the actor’s Kevin-Hart-like Vine persona – except with actual cinematic value. Bella Thorne as Allison, the cheerleader who “looks like Big Bird’s side bitch” and laments her deflated breast upon getting injured (priorities). All hilarious, all given standout moments, all killed in brutal fashion. Pretty much the opposite of Happy Death Day (personal opinion).
Oh, that bit above? You read right – McG delivers on deaths. Hangings, shotguns, a Fat Dragon firework. The Babysitter establishes these deplorable-but-lovable characters who entertain and double as enjoyable lambs for the slaughter. Kills are less “scary” and more “dumb enjoyment,” but malevolently detailed as far as executions are concerned. The previously mentioned weapons being used in creative and deliciously despicable ways, always ramping up as Cole faces fear in many forms.
Blood doesn’t just run out of an open head wound – it shoots like a Yellowstone geyser (prompting Bachelor freakouts). Effects run a mix of practical and digital rendering – saving budget for music licensing – yet it’s never a detractor. Flashes are quick enough then we’re right back to mangled corpses and dumbstruck faces. Once again, because it deems to be stated over and over, McG makes sure audiences are enjoying themselves through all the havoc. Believe.