Starring: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell & Bella Thorne
Directed by: McG
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: October 2017
Running Time: 85 mins
Synopsis: Cole loves his babysitter Bee. She’s hot, funny, and popular. One night, in a moment of defiance, Cole secretly stays up past his bedtime to discover she’s actually a cold-blooded killer who’s in league with the Devil. He now must spend his night evading Bee’s band of killers who will stop at nothing to prevent Cole from spilling their dark secret. It’s up to Cole to survive the night (and blow up a few people along the way).
As much as I would have loved to have gone into The Babysitter completely unspoiled and to get the maximum impact from that shocking twist and genre-swerve of the second act, the film’s trailer and synopsis explicitly reveals the horror element to ensure that its target audience watches it. The reveal itself reminds me of From Dusk Till Dawn, and how the sudden introduction of vampires pulls the carpet from beneath the feet of the audience. In that instance, though, the film had already been established as a crime thriller, so the supernatural element was tonally adjacent. If The Babysitter had been promoted as the teen drama it appears to be on the surface, it may not have reached its audience of horror fans. I know that I probably wouldn’t have seen the film unless I’d discovered the true concept beforehand.
One thing that did surprise me about the film was the depth of the relationship between Cole and his babysitter, Bee. I initially assumed that her deception extended to her feelings for the young teen, but it turns out that they were genuine friends and this relationship really elevates the movie for me. Bee doesn’t actually want to kill Cole, but events unravel and it becomes her only choice. This was a neat misdirect from the trailer, and I actually loved the chemistry between Judah Lewis and Samara Weaving in the pre-horror scenes and also in the bloody denouement. I was not expecting there to be such a strong emotional connection between the two, and I was almost rooting for them to overcome their differences and work together.
Director McG injects an anarchic level of fun into the film, evoking memories of Home Alone at times as Cole attempts to defend his home from his unwelcome intruders. In fact, anyone who has ever watched Home Alone and wished it was a bit more brutal should definitely check out this film – it is the “teen Kevin takes on murderous intruders” movie that we’ve always wanted. The dark comedy never lets up, and while there are moments of gore, the smart script and strong character relationships prevent it from being a mindless bloodbath. The villains of the piece aren’t experts in murder by any means, and much of the film’s energy comes from the way it subverts horror tropes and how the majority of the film is them attempting to regain control over a failed sacrifice.
Known in Australia for her role in the soap opera Home & Away, this role establishes Samara Weaving as a leading lady in the horror genre – something she has capitalised upon since with an appearance in the similarly-themed black comedy, Ready or Not. Weaving definitely has the charisma, but she also develops her character beyond a simple attractive blonde – she demonstrates genuine concern for Cole and a geeky side that belies her cheerleader look. She is extremely watchable, and it doesn’t surprise me that her star is beginning to shine brighter. Also impressive is Judah Lewis, who manages to realistically depict Cole’s transition from a timid, perpetually-afraid teenager into a brave, independent young man. The character development was effectively done, and Cole never seems to suddenly evolve into an unrealistic hero – his victories are all well-earned (or accidental) and feel legitimate.
The rest of the supporting cast are great fun too. I particularly liked Robbie Amell as the shirtless, grinning alpha male who seemed to have a soft spot for his prey. Also of note was Bella Thorne – not just because of the steamy lesbian kiss – but for her take on the entitled cheerleader brat. She gets some great lines, and her “injury” was the source of much amusement! McG choreographs the night’s events well, and while the action never really leaves the same location, it never feels low-budget or restricted. While the suspension of belief does get stretched at some points (seriously, none of their neighbours heard any of this), McG subverts enough horror tropes to keep things fresh and exciting for the viewers.
Smart, sexy and surprisingly heart-warming at times, The Babysitter is one of the better horror-comedies to come out in recent years. It might not be traditional date-night material, but it is one of the hidden gems on Netflix for a Saturday night movie and well worth checking out!