Netflix has been recommending The Babysitter to me since it came out in 2017. The plot sounded fun, and I’ve almost pressed play a few times. But it stars Bella Thorne who is like the new Paris Hilton – famous for being famous, and attractive and exploiting that attractiveness into social media points (and money, presumably). I have zero interest in watching anything with her in it.
In the years since I’ve very much become a fan of Samara Weaving. She’s terrific in films like Mayhem and Ready or Not, she was the best part of the recent Scream film. So when I realized she was the actual star of The Babysitter I decided to give it a spin. The film is pretty good, actually, and Samara is terrific.
The plot is full of clever callbacks and the dialogue is often very funny. The story involves a shy, nerdy 12-year-old (Judah Lewis) who is sort of embarrassed to be the oldest kid on the block who still has a babysitter but less embarrassed that the babysitter looks like Samara Weaving and is super cool and actually seems interested in spending time with him. He’s then full-on mortified when he learns she’s the head of a satanic cult and needs his blood for a sacrificial ritual.
From there, it becomes a Home Alone-type situation with the boy trying to keep the babysitter and her friends from killing him. Well, Home Alone where the violence is a lot more visceral and less cartoony. It is mostly quite a fun thrill ride. Even Bella Thorne is enjoyable. She plays a vacuous, superficial, dumb-dumb who is more concerned with her beauty than anything else (when she gets shot in the chest she is more worried that it will ruin her boobs than whether she’ll live or die). You could argue it isn’t much of a stretch for the actress.
The problem lies in the direction. McG started life as a music producer and video director and it shows. So much of The Babysitter feels like it belongs on MTV. It is filled with fast cuts, big needle drops, and neon-bright directorial swings. He draws clear influence from folks like Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright but has none of their panache or understanding of how to use stylistic flourishes to support the story. Instead, it feels like he’s just beating us on the head with them.
Had the script been given maybe one or two more go-overs and it had been helmed by a real director The Babysitter could have been a true cult classic. As it is, I’m once again swooned by Samara Weaving, and entertained by the story, but I leave it wishing there was more to it.