5 Years Later, The Babysitter Is McG’s Big, Dumb Magnum Opus

The Babysitter

Oh, McG, what are we going to do with you? The man often referred to as the Fred Durst of the directorial world (until Fred Durst became the Fred Durst of that) has a critical reputation usually reserved for the most cynical of hacks. I’m here to say that while it’s understandable, I think it’s a bit unfair on Mr. McGinty Nichol. Sure, his films have the pheromone signature of an overexcited teenage boy and the attention span of a drunk goldfish, but there’s gold in that combo when brewed just right. Yes, films like This is War and Rim of the World are cinematic dregs, but then there’s The Babysitter, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month. With this film, McG was in a prime state, the best he can possibly be without being a completely different person.

This 2017 Netflix original puts a fun twist on the role of the babysitter in a horror movie, and while it often feels like hilariously juvenile wish fulfillment for the little boy that was McG, it works because it doesn’t ever stop being the most ridiculous, horny horror romp — I can’t help but admire it for that.

The story sees a bullied loser kid Cole (Judah Lewis) struggling with the misery of his school day existence, and finding solace in the affectionate connection he shares with his babysitter, Bee (played by Samara Weaving). When his parents leave him in Bee’s care one weekend, Cole decides to stay up and see what Bee gets up to when he’s asleep. His hormone-filled head is clearly filled with a swirling mix of dread and excitement at the thought of what naughty goings on might happen with a young woman he adores so hopelessly. What he discovers changes their relationship forever.

Bee has invited a Light Breakfast Club of high school stereotypes, including a vain cheerleader (Bella Thorne), a himbo jock (Robbie Amell), and a ‘weird’ one (Hana Mae Lee). A game of truth or dare gets a bit hot and heavy until it takes a rather violent turn when Bee casually murders a nerdy young man in the group. Turns out that this particular congregation is preaching to the Lord of Darkness in hopes of being granted their deepest desires. They just need to mix the blood of their freshly-made sacrifice with that of a pure soul in order to perform a ritual. Unfortunately for Cole, he’s supposed to be the second part of that blood cocktail. What ensues is best described as Gory, Horndog Home Alone as Cole goes up against each member of this teenage cult in increasingly silly and blood-splattered encounters.

At this point, outside the relationship between Bree and Cole, almost any shred of logic and coherent structure flies out the window. Cole is a wimp going through an empowering character arc that’s helped along by the fact the people he’s facing are largely absolute morons. Morons who all end up basically killing themselves with their stupidity. That’s a good thing for The Babysitter, though, because in most cases, these actors are all in on delivering the stupid for our entertainment. Robbie Amell is a highlight here, and showed me exactly why I thought he’d be such a great Chris Redfield in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. He’s a big dumb himbo who takes great pride in showing off his body (he spends most of his screen time shirtless), but offers up a surprising amount of positive motivation to Cole when his bully shows up in the middle of the murderous chaos.

Yet the real reason this ends up being something more than another chunk of flotsam found in the typically humdrum Netflix horror churn is the titular babysitter herself. In 2017, Samara Weaving began her journey to become a modern horror icon with this film and her exquisite performance in Joel Lynch’s Mayhem. Even in something as messy and idiotic as The Babysitter, Weaving brings an earnest likeability to a murdering cultist and actually elevates the betrayal Bee inflicts on Cole to something meaningful. Early on, you see exactly why Cole idolizes her, and thankfully it’s more than just because of how she looks. They share a genuine connection that really builds empathy for Cole when he’s devastated by the knowledge that she’s essentially been using him all along.

I’m never going to argue that The Babysitter is some underrated horror gem, but I think it holds the same mucky value of some 80s cult horror classics and 2000s sex comedies. Not as good as any of them because it clearly has a budget and freedom none of those were ever afforded, but it’s not like it’s trying to be anything profound.

Also, it helped set Samara Weaving on a course to horror stardom, and that’s a net gain for the genre.

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