E.T. The Cabbage Patch Kids. Gremlins. Paula Abdul. Yup, the ‘80s were responsible for a lot of weird/awesome stuff, including the sub-genre of so-bad-you-can’t-stop-watching horror movies that resurface ironically every October at hipster Halloween parties. It is in this vein that director McG – in his first collaboration with Netflix – presents The Babysitter, part coming of age story, part kitschy bloodbath, with mixed results.
12-year-old Cole (Judah Lewis) is a bit of a wimp. He’s scared of needles, bullied by his neighbour, and refuses to participate in a driving lesson with his dad on the grounds that he is certain that he will die. For this reason Cole still has a babysitter - one who is staying for the weekend whilst his parental unit is out of town. Bee (Aussie actress Samara Weaving) is the epitome of every teenage boy’s babysitting fantasy; from water fights in the pool wearing nothing but a red string bikini to strategizing role-play games using Star Trek captains and Ripley from Alien, Bee is perfect in every way but one. She’s the leader of a demonic cult, and her band of acolytes (including a permanently shirtless Robbie Amell and a cheerleading Bella Thorne) are intent on stealing the blood of an innocent, and unfortunately for Cole, they don’t come much more innocent than him.
The action takes place over the course of a single night, as young Cole fights for survival against his comically meta-aware nemeses to the backdrop of a rocking eighties soundtrack. Amell and Thorne are entertaining cannon fodder but with sample dialogue like ‘he shot me in the boob’ and ‘you missed my dick…I got a big dick’, Randy Meeks they ain’t. Weaving and Lewis make the most of what they’re given to deliver strong, authentic performances, but as the night lurches on it’s impossible to ignore the feeling that McG has missed an opportunity to create a modern-day self aware classic aimed at millennials that understands they care about more than their number of Instagram followers.
Strip away the blood, gore and relatively tame NSFW language and what remains is essentially a coming of age story geared towards giving Cole his Marty McFly moment. Marty was denounced as a chicken while in 2017 Cole contends with being called a pussy. The bad guys break character too often to genuinely feel threatening thus diluting any real concern that Cole is ever in genuine danger, although there are a couple of suitably gory death scenes that Sorority House Killer would be proud of. Despite decent performances in what is billed as a horror comedy, there are too many holes in both the plot and tone for The Babysitter to carve a place for itself as a success in either genre. Fun, but forgettable.
THE BABYSITTER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MCG / SCREENPLAY: BRIAN DUFFIELD / STARRING: JUDAH LEWIS, SAMARA WEAVING, ROBBIE AMELL, BELLA THORNE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW