Okay, first of all, let me level with you guys for a second: I love camp. While the serious stuff is what usually defines horror, there’s nothing like a good laugh. The Babysitter tries to deliver in both ends with mixed results.
It is undeniable that, while Netflix Originals have been a bit hit or miss, especially when it comes to movies, the horror films that the online platform has produced have been among the highest quality content they offer. From Creep to Holidays (minus the awful Halloween segment directed by Kevin Smith), Hush or I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. Now, The Babysitter ranks below all of these because of some stylistic decisions, but it’s still fantastic that there is a place for a movie like this.
The story focuses on Cole, a scaredy 12-year-old boy played by 16-year-old actor Judah Lewis (the age thing will become important later, trust me) who is left home alone with his babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving). What sounds like a fun weekend for both of them turns ugly when he decides to spy on her and discovers her dark secret: she belongs to a demonic cult.
Let’s start from the beginning, the element by which you can judge the success or failure of The Babysitter: Its style. You cannot argue that they did not shy from using every gimmick in the book to make it look good. At some points, I thought it was a bold decision, at other points, it just looked dumb. Let me give you two examples: every time Cole is talking to his neighbor Melanie, the action in the background goes into slow motion, which looks very cool and lets you know at that moment Cole can only think about her while the rest of the world fades away. Okay. At some other point, Bee is giving her choice of crew for an intergalactic mission and the names appear on the screen as text. That’s dumb, and also reduces the film to a teenager’s power fantasy à la Revenge of the Nerds. By the way, they did go for the 80s nostalgia look for like 20 seconds total in the film.
It is worth mentioning that all of these eccentric moments are concentrated on the first half of The Babysitter (roughly the first 45 minutes). The worst part is that without these interesting, weird touches, the film is just a mediocre, quite sexist slasher at best. All of these is made worse due to a very distracting element of the film: the sound design is pretty messed up. It consist of a series of misplaced audio FX library samples that ruin any immersion and make you wonder what the hell happened that they decided to give this film the green light without giving the sound a second pass.
Don’t get me wrong, although the rest of the film is perfect, that wouldn’t matter all that much if at least The Babysitter looked and sounded like a polished piece. For instance, there is the matter of the main character’s age. A scene begins with him looking 16 and saying lines that would be appropriate for that age, and then, out of the blue, he starts talking like a 9 year-old. All in all, I think Judah Lewis did a very good job with the lines he was given and put a lot of effort into selling his character, which is always nice. He actually left me wanting to see him in something else and was bummed out when I read that he had been among the final choices to play Spider-Man in Homecoming, he would have made a good job with that role.
Opposite to Cole we have the Babysitter, and she really is the star of the flick. I very much like the performance delivered by Samara Weaving. Bee is confident, attractive and likeable in both halves of the film. She raised two questions for me: if it is implied that this is not her first time looking after Cole, why did she wait so long to get into ooky-spooky, demon stuff? And, not actually a question, but the creators did not seem very confident about making the film about Bee being a strong, independent woman who gets what she wants. They tread the line, but just when they are about to comment on it, she kind of disappears from the movie for a while until she reappears for the final moments. To put it bluntly, she is the perfect proof that the writers are completely out of touch with modern sensibilities. Ultimately, they casted a hot girl who happens to be a good actress, instead of intending it the other way around.
The rest of the actors give their best Rocky Horror/archetype performances before being dispatched of one by one. To be honest, the character who looks the least memorable the first time you see him, Max (The Flash‘s alum Robbie Amell), steals the show during the second part. The others seem very aware of the quality and intention of the script. That’s another one of my problems: a lot of times, characters will comment on some dumb decision made by others, in a half-baked attempt at breaking the 4th wall. Laughing at oneself is important, but if you are the first one to point out how stupid something you are doing is, maybe you should stop and reevaluate what you are doing in the first place.
Finally, there is a line at the end of the movie that I found very relevant to what I think the intentions of the creators were: “In science fiction you can do anything”. You can, but, should you? I always feel weird about recommending a movie on Netflix, because you are already paying for the service so, in theory, you have nothing to lose but an hour and twenty minutes. Turns out time is a pretty big investment nowadays, so I would say pass on The Babysitter. If you are really curious about what a campy horror flick can look like in 2017, I’m sure you won’t have a hard time finding a better one.
Wicked Rating: 5/10
Writer: Brian Duffield
Stars: Bella Thorne, Samara Weaving, Leslie Bibb
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Studio/Production Company: BSFG Productions
Length: 85 minutes
Sub-Genre: Slasher, Camp