Cast: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Hana Mae Lee, Andrew Bachelor, Emily Alyn Lind, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino, Miles J. Harvey, and Doug Haley
What a strange movie this is. The Babysitter is the sort of film where a Satan-worshiping high school quarterback will try and strangle our 12-year-old protagonist to death one minute, but will then encourage him to stand up against the neighborhood bully in the next. It’s also the sort of film where there are numerous jokes made about a henchwoman who got shot in her boob. Most of it is played for laughs, of course, but it’s really not as funny as director McG seems to think it is.
And boy, does he sure find a lot of this funny. The movie is so quirky, so playful, and so pleased with itself that it kind of wore on my nerves. It tries to downplay some of its gorier scenes (of which there are a lot) by having someone cracking wise, such as the scene where one bad guy starts complaining about being constantly sprayed in the face with other people’s blood. “Three out of four people got an STD,” he screeches. “I got two people’s blood on me. You do the math.” (Ha-ha) There are a few moments where the film tries to generate suspense, most of them in the climax, but by then we’re so worn down by the film’s silliness that we can’t really take it seriously.
The story here is actually not that bad. Cole Johnson (Judah Lewis, who looks like Hailee Steinfield’s younger sibling) is an awkward and insecure kid who’s bullied at school and, unlike the other kids his age, still has to have a babysitter look after him when his parents go out of town. He doesn’t mind too much, because his babysitter is the impossibly gorgeous Bee (Samara Weaving, Hugo Weaving’s niece), a fun-loving and easy going young woman.
Things seem all peachy as the two of them swim around in the pool and reenact scenes from Billy Jack while it’s projected on the side of his house. When Cole’s neighbor and best friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) encourages him to stay up past his bed time to see what it is his babysitter does when he’s asleep, he witness Bee and her friends play an innocent if kinky game of Spin the Bottle that soon turns deadly when Bee murders the one outsider in the group. The outsider was meant to be a human sacrifice, and they needed his blood and Cole’s blood for a devil-worshipping ceremony that’ll make their dreams come true.
The villains here are certainly a colorful bunch: There’s Max (Robbie Amell), the school jock; Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), the knife-wielding psychopath; John (Andrew Bachelor), the token black guy in the group; and Allison (Bella Thorne), the ditzy cheerleader. These four actors are certainly a charming and likable bunch, and that’s kind of a problem. You need actors who can inject at least a little menace into their characters. Even Lee’s blood-thirsty Sonya comes across as more goofy than scary. I know this is a comedy first and a horror second, but a little menace from the villains isn’t too much to ask, is it?
Weaving stands out in the group. There are moments where she is quite menacing (there are times when those piercing blue eyes of hers got under my skin), and you can certainly tell that she’s having fun. Yet once Cole goes on the run, she’s given very little screen time. It’s the other four the movie focuses on the most. The other performances are good. Lewis is a likable protagonist, Lind brings a real sweetness as the girl who secretly has a crush on him, and Miles J. Harvey made me smile as the kid who constantly bullies Cole. The film also looks really good, with production designer Kristen Vallow and set decorator Sandy Hubshman giving Cole’s house an almost dream-like visual look.
Compared to another babysitter themed horror film from this year, The Babysitter is miles better than the ugly Better Watch Out. The premise here is certainly a lot more fun, and for a movie directed by McG, it’s surprisingly well-made. The problem for me is that I just didn’t think it was funny, and for a movie that tries to be oh so clever and funny from start to finish, that’s a really big problem. Of course, comedy is subjective, and if you go on IMDB, you’ll read a lot of reviews calling the film hilarious. Who knows? You might feel the same.
Final Grade: ** ½ (out of ****)
Not Rated, but would definitely be an R for strong bloody violence, sexual content, profanity