The Babysitter tries really hard. Really hard to balance horror and comedy but comes up short in both departments inevitably.
As is becoming a little too common, The Babysitter looks to recapture the glory days of 80s horror. We’re finding more and more movies trying this and the results…well, they rarely turn out good. As we have often said, the 80s in horror was a magical time where any idea, no matter how crazy or stupid it was, could be made and put out for the public consumption. Clichés weren’t clichés yet and the term ‘so bad, it’s good’ really came to light in this decade.
It was and remains a great era for horror so you can’t blame directors, writers and production companies for trying to capture a little bit of that magic. However, the times have changed. Entertainment has changed and we’re so used to certain tropes in horror that it’s almost a requirement to avoid them in your movie.
The Babysitter doesn’t try to avoid tropes nor clichés, instead hoping that bucketloads of blood and constant jokes will draw the audiences in.
Cole (Judah Lewis) is a young boy head over heels in love with his babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving). She is the coolest babysitter you’ll ever see and as near to perfect as you could possibly get. She’s so perfect in fact, that it’s almost unbelievable.
Cole and Bee get along so great that it seems like less of a job for her and more like she is just hanging out with her friend. Him being the ‘scared of everything/bullied’ character we’ve seen so much, he is naturally drawn to her confident ways.
Cole’s a good kid but his parents aren’t quite ready to leave him alone just yet. So, when they go away for the weekend, Bee is hired to look after the lad.
Talking with his friend on the bus about what happens when he goes to bed, Cole decides to stay up to see if Bee invites over a boy and has sex.
That night, when he is supposed to be asleep, Cole sees Bee invite several of her friends into the house and they play spin the bottle. Welcome to stock-character city where everyone is just defined by what the film says they are. Yes, this is supposed to be part of the joke but unlike say…The Cabin the Woods, The Babysitter doesn’t throw us a curveball, instead running with these exact characters.
We have the stuck-up cheerleader Allison (Bella Thorne), the muscle-head jock Max (Robbie Amell), the token black guy named John (Andrew Bachelor), the gothic and mysterious Sonya (Hana Mae Lee) and the nerdy nervous Samuel (Doug Haley).
We get some kissing designed to titillate before Bee turns her attentions to Samuel. It turns out he doesn’t really know these guys and came because he wanted to be part of the cool kids’ gang. So, he initially baulks at the idea of kissing Bee, being a nervous nerd. Encouraged by the rest, he gets his kiss. Something Cole enjoys watching seeing as he’s also a nerdy nervous character. However, before either can get too carried away Bee plunges two knives into his head.
It comes as bit of a shock to Samuel and Cole, who is still hidden. However, thanks to Netflix’s idiotic trailer everyone saw this coming. The rest of the gang are completely unperturbed by this and start collecting his blood in cups. It turns out that the gang are planning a Satanic ritual to get whatever they want from Satan and all they need is the blood of the innocent. Namely Samuel…and Cole.
To survive Cole is going to have to outwit the group. Something that is surprisingly easy thanks to dumb characters and dumb writing. All while the jokes spurt out like blood from a stab wound to the head.
From dumb character decisions (one scene sees Cole go back into house after he has already escaped) to groan-inducing dialogue. Lines like:
“This shit would go viral. I mean nobody’s done human sacrifice” and “he shot me in the boob”.
That’s just two of many, many bad lines said in the hope that the occasional might raise a chuckle. The characters start sounding fake and this only worsens as the movie goes on. Take for example Cole waking up after fainting, finding himself tied to a chair in front of the Satan worshippers.
What’s the first words out of his mouth? Why is that guy (Robbie Amell’s Max) shirtless? Having John point out how absurd that is as a first question doesn’t make it any less stupid.
Which is one of the biggest takeaways from The Babysitter. That it is a stupid movie that has a cop getting a poker thrown through his eye. Another person getting blown up by a firework and another crushed under a car that is flipped through the front of a house.
It’s set-piece after set-piece but not a lot of anything in between. These set-pieces are good though and the latter, the car through the house set to Queen’s We Are the Champions, is gleefully fun to watch.
It’s a shame we couldn’t have had a better story and better characters for it. While no one actor is particularly bad, the stereotypes they play and the dialogue they spew really harms them.
The defence for this movie often shared online is that it’s supposed to be a throwback so these cookie-cutter characters and dialogue are forgivable. However, this is not 1985. It’s 2019 and a lot of what happens in this movie insults the intelligence. We call out 80’s horror all the time for clichés, poor writing and bad characters, why should The Babysitter be any different?