Not The Babysitters Club.
Not Adventures in Babysitting.
Not My Babysitter’s a Vampire.
Not even Jonah Hill’s The Sitter.
The Netflix original The Babysitter is brand new, campy, absurd and perfect.
I must admit, when I heard Netflix was putting out a babysitting comedy, my gut reaction was they can do better. The babysitter trope has been stretched in so many directions the narrative has become stale by 2017. Netflix isn’t one to miss the mark, so I wondered how they would deliver with such a dated premise.
Much to my surprise– disbelief, honestly– The Babysitter was sick, ridiculous, irreverent fun. With a Friday the 13th release date, the odds were stacked in favor of Happy Death Day in major theaters; even the Friday the 13th franchise had more promotion on streaming services than this Netflix underdog. After watching, though, the Friday the 13th (of October, no less) premier of The Babysitter fit like a glove. McG’s electric slasher comedy emulated all the Halloween slumber party feelings I never knew I missed.
It’s Completely F*cked
I say this fondly: The Babysitter makes no sense at all. The McG production is a slapstick bloodbath, eager to celebrate immaturity and gore. The screenplay, written by Brian Duffield, could have easily been directed to a more satirical, dry wit comedic effort. But the satanic twist on the classic girl-next-door tale called for a much more epic, nonsensical endeavor. Everything from virgin sacrifice spin-the-bottle to egg yolk asphyxiation; The Babysitter is irrational and flaunts it. Think the animated humor of 21 Jump Street and the Wayans brothers with arterial spurts the likes of Jennifer’s Body and Zombieland.
I stand by my sentiment that Bella Thorne is this generation’s Lindsay Lohan. Cast as the airhead cheerleader of the cult, Thorne is likely the biggest star cast in The Babysitter. Director McG also produced the 2015 teen film The Duff, which similarly cast Bella Thorne as an archetypal bubblegum chick. The film’s horror conventions are met with equal parts teen comedy, chiding football jock intellect and popular girl bitchiness. Always on the lookout for a good old fashioned high school movie, I felt that channeling teen sensibility made The Babysitter more re-watchable among youth audiences. I am forever rooting for a pretty villain and Bella Thorne is the exact one I love to hate.
The 80’s References
If you want your work to be successful in 2017, take a hint from Stranger Things and the newest IT movie and refer to beloved films from the 80’s. The Babysitter wasn’t marketed as a throwback in any capacity, but undoubtedly borrows from 80’s classics both inside and outside of the horror genre.
Babysitter Bee, portrayed by Samara Weaving, is precisely the blonde bombshell every boy has been dreaming of for decades. Seriously, she’s a knockout. It’s exactly those blonde curls and All-American looks that harken back to Christie Brinkley-era beauty. The male gaze of 1980’s film can be spotted throughout.
The Fast Times at Ridgemont High nod, for example:
The film incorporates a recreation of the Risky Business POV scene; young Cole’s parents are leaving for the weekend and we famously see camera work that nods and follows his parents out of the house. Simple, and if you’re not too deep into pop culture you could miss it, but it served its purpose. Mimicking the spirit of coveted 80’s films is a nostalgic way to put a smile on any viewer’s face.
The Babysitter Has Heart
To reiterate: I had low expectations for this film. Mainstream comedies with predominantly white casts go as far as a few crude jokes and leave us unsatisfied. Even after I learned more about the film’s scary twist on classic babysitting stories, I doubted that I could relate to The Babysitter beyond mere curiosity as a horror fan.
Despite the routine character elements and outrageous slasher sequences, The Babysitter is surprisingly sweet. As I said before, Samara Weaving plays the perfect babe suited for a young boy’s fantasy. But Bee and Cole’s relationship went beyond a gushing one-ended crush; their friendship was well-developed and she seemed to give Cole confidence, which warranted his romantic feelings beyond Bee’s bodacious appearance.
The Babysitter is essentially a hero’s journey with an anti-bullying theme. Cole, timid and intelligent, survives multiple attacks from devilish idiots throughout the night. As we root for him, the underdog of his character slowly dissipates and results in a full-fledged bad ass. In babysitter stories of the past, the boy gets the dream girl. In 2017’s The Babysitter, the boy also rushes the dream girl with an airborne sports car.
This film hardly touches the iconography of Scream or Halloween, but was an uncovered gem in my Recommended queue the night of Friday the 13th. Especially if you least expect it, watch this film for an underrated merry bloodbath. The Babysitter may surprise you.
What did you think of The Babysitter? Leave a comment!