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The Babysitter: Charming Lead Overcomes Excesses in Odd Coming-of-Age Horror-Comedy
It’s not every day you witness a movie about a boy having to escape the satanic clutches of his babysitter, but in the new Netflix original horror-comedy, “The Babysitter,” that crazy concept becomes reality in this strange coming-of-age film.
Directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels, This Means War), the movie stars Cole (Judah Lewis), a young, dorky 12 year-old boy who has an abundance of fears, from girls to needles, must fend for himself after witnessing , Bee (Samara Weaving), his long-time babysitter and crush, murder someone as part of a satanic ritual.
To make matters worse, Bee needs the blood of the innocent to complete her ritual, and has her own collection of psychotic friends, including the star high-school quarterback, Max (Robbie Amell), ready to capture Cole to complete this task.
Despite the excessive gore and sexualization of the female characters, “The Babysitter,” proves a funny and tense watch due to the strong performance of lead actor Judah Lewis and its subversion of horror movie tropes. Lewis made us care about his character, and genuinely want him to escape this encounter unscathed.
In part, his performance shines because of how well-rounded the character is. Cole is a nerdy outcast who is regularly bullied, but he’s also a kid dealing with overbearing parents and the fear that they may soon divorce. He’s not some crazy, sexed-up teenager like in a traditional horror movie.
In terms of sexed-up teenagers, this film has plenty in its primary villains. While the film has trouble transcending this horror movie trope, it does manage to subvert it by making the sexed-up teenagers the killers instead of the victims. This reversal of one’s typical expectations adds a fun dynamic to these characters one would not have expected from a film like this.
One cannot discuss this film without discussing the role of the titular babysitter, Bee. While I found the initial scenes between Cole and Bee to be a bit groan-inducing due to the almost manic-pixie-dream-girl level perfectness of Bee. She was funny, cool, and loved sci-fi and other dorky things. A pre-teen boy’s perfect fantasy. However, once the first murder happens, the action gets going, and Bee’s previous actions proven to be pure manipulation, the film really gets interesting.
One of the film’s strongest sources of humor would be from Max, played by Robbie Amell. While attempting to murder Cole, he instead chooses to teach Cole to fight and stand up to a bully they find egging Cole’s house. He becomes a strange sort of quasi-big brother figure for Cole. He supports him more than his parents do, and genuinely believes Cole is a good kid. Not exactly something one would expect from a cold-blooded killer.
Despite this humor and strange sweetness, the violence of the film almost manages to ruin it due to its excessive nature. While the rest of the film is quite funny and tense, the murders make you feel almost sick to your stomach with excessive gore. If they toned down the gore just a bit more I feel like the rest of the film could have shined more.
Overall, The Babysitter is a funny, tense film bolstered by strong leads, but almost succumbs to the excesses of the horror component of its genre. For fun Halloween viewing, The Babysitter feels like a solid option.