Netflix as a studio is strange when it is compared to Netflix the streaming service because their needs are so different. Netflix streaming needs to have content, their own or someone else’s, available to share and watch that is so diverse that anyone could find anything to watch. Meanwhile Netflix the Studio has to make movies they think will be good and watched, but also fit on their steaming platform in a way that anyone in the mood could watch it while being its own piece. That is a difficult tightrope to walk, for sure, and I think The Babysitter and it’s newly released sequel fall into that category. They have to be made for anybody to find while also being of a certain genre and piece that can be marketed to certain groups to produce a unique set of films.
The Babysitter is the first film I’m reviewing in the conventional sense that I have also watched before. Technically speaking. I watched it once then forgot about its existence until the trailers for its sequel started coming around, so with fresh eyes and appreciation for (best actress every) Samara Weaving its time to dig into the original.
The Babysitter follows 12 year old Cole, a classic nerdy, shy kid who just so happens to have to coolest and most attractive babysitter ever, Bee played by Samara Weaving. After a bet with his childhood friend, Cole says he’ll stay up after he’s supposed to go to bed and see why Bee is really up to. He’ll live to regret that when he finds out Bee has a classic posse of cliché horror teens, but with a twist. Instead of running from the demons they are the monsters. Now Cole must go lethal Home Alone in order to survive the night.
Never has a movie, even one I only had vague feelings about, gone up in appraisal and estimations so drastically. The only thing that ever stuck around was it not feeling finally consistent. A black comedy horror movie where the tone isn’t sure if it’s supposed to be a children’s movie with an edge or a comedic splatterfest with a child at the center. That still persists this time around. It feels like the film wanted to be a throwback to 80s teen horror and Goonies-alike adventure films but had to push itself into a harder R to compete with the more modern and gruesome horror fair. But there is so much more to appreciate.
The biggest, most obvious standouts is the casting. After her star making roll in Ready or Not, Samara Weaving is a force to be reckoned with. She is just so expressive, and can portray any emotion with compete earnestness. Of course she is not alone. Her chemistry with Cole and the rest of her team is impeccable. The horror troope in particular feel all just weird and original to stand out. The jock who wants a challenge and forces Cole to stand up for himself, or the ditzy cheerleader with a head on her shoulders and ambition. They stand out. Unfortunately not all of them do. Some are just around for the deaths.
Calling this a deadly Home Alone feels apt. It feels like all the fan theories about what would happen to the Wet Bandits if they didn’t live in a cartoon world, and they are all fun, satisfying, and unique. Dropping a guy onto a diamond award to have through their neck, blowing someone up with a giant firework, hanging someone by the neck so hard their spine breaks off. They are all perfectly comedic in the amount of gore and fun.
Of course, the film is shot well. It’s utterly stunning just how confident, bold, and oddly professional it feels. That seems obvious, but it looks like the standard for what all horror/horror-comedies should be. Strong sets, good use of shadows and reveals, and just solid camera work all hold the rock solid character arc together.
The main through line is that character arc. A nerdy kid learning to grow up is classic and this movie makes it work by making the obvious fresh. Every setup, even as they are screamingly obvious, all feel earned by the end, and ultimately tragic as Cole must let go of his first love and one of his best friends. It’s really effecting and heartfelt even as the comedy is hit and miss.
It’s overall a solid film that seems both obvious and odd to get a sequel for.
The sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, is a more ambitious film than its predecessor but comes at the cost of being less focused and reliant on some minor sequelites.
Set two years after the last movie, Cole is not doing well. After Cole tried to tell the real story of what happened that night he was labeled a pariah, crazy, and someone in need of being taken to a psych ward. To make it worse, a new kid in school, Phoebe, enters the pictures When Cole decides to ditch school and a trip to said psych ward to go with last films crush, Meleanie, and her friends to a boat house party the night takes a turn. It’s revealed Meleanie was part of the original cult the whole time, and to add insult to injury, the original posse returns with a one night pass to make good on last movies threat. When Phoebe enters the picture at the wrong time it is up to Cole and Phoebe to survive the night while Cole and Meleanie’s parents try to find them.
From a summary like that alone it is clearly far more complicated with many, many additional moving pieces. Not just plot and story wise, but they up the gore and splatter stakes in something closer akin to an Evil Dead sequel of that TV series. The posse die in new and more gruesome but ridiculous ways that all have one foot firmly planted in the cartoonish. Well that and a socialists wet dream of CG, whether it looks good or not. That’s not even taking into account the amount of skits, gags, and exaggerated imagery used to push the whole piece into something more farcical and wild.
For just a taste here is a factual list of images the movie gives: decapitation through a surf board, getting stuck a well endowed person stuck between a cliff and pulling them down till their neck snaps, a retro video game fight scene, a “sex” scene where the imagery is all disco dancing and clips that a 50s movie might use to depict sex, and impalment with a deer horn chandelier.
None of that should still doesn’t discount the plot which is both unpredictable on how it will all play out, but once the end arrives it feels like it wasn’t going to play out any other way. Some of the scenes feel like they are playing for time and comedy longer than they need, and not all of the new characters get enough screen time, but in the moment it all feels like it could go anywhere.
That spontaneous energy and storytelling carries over into how Samara Weaving’s Bee returns and her overall role. It, like everything, feels stupidly obvious (especially a reveal in a character’s past), but still satisfying.
The casting is still great. The new characters, though they don’t get a lot of screen time, do feel distinct and stand out from the old cast. Not all of whine feel as fresh. Some like Robbie Amell’s jock character feel like a breath a fresh air and a friendly face while others feel like they’re back by obligation. The reuse of old bits and jokes don’t help the matter. They try to spice it up by seeing a snippet of their backstory being recruited by Bee. They just aren’t fleshed out enough or funny enough to make up for the reused jokes (again, except for Robbie Amell. Guy is freaking perfect).
The overall filmmaking isn’t as strong as the previous either. The above mentioned reliance on CG, and wanting to reuse old tricks makes the film feel restricted. However, when it’s time to get bloody they do not hold back.
Even with those problems it is still a really fun time and makes for a satisfying dual watch with the previous film. They are both fun, energetic horror comedy movies that still don’t feel like they know who the audience is for. It’s too comedically gory to be for adults, but too sexual to be for kids. With Cole being older it helps, but still feels like it is adult for the sake of appearance more than choice. But, that audience problem is one problem many Netflix films have, and no Samara Weaving can save them from that fate.
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