McG’s new film, The Babysitter, is immediately abrasive. Within the first five minutes, we find ourselves in four different locations. Cole (Judah Lewis) is introduced as too squeamish to accept a shot from the school nurse. A strange introduction, to be sure.
Cole is your stereotypical high school nerd. He stutters his way through conversations. He is bullied by the stereotypical bullies. He has a massive crush on his babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving).
Bee is a great babysitter. She is down to earth, sees things on Cole’s level, bends the rules. Did I say bend the rules? I meant break the law. The Big Kahuna Burger of laws, perpetrated to some ritualistic end. And Cole is witness to the entire act.
The Babysitter is a comedy for teens that attempts to make fun of modern teens and strike a meta-textual chord by making as many pop culture references as possible. In essence, it tries to be the in-crowd and the out-crowd while never really relating to either.
Jokes about Instagram followers and the gender of the Xenomorph clearly don’t mix. A person watching this film will only find one of those jokes funny (if either).
Stylistically, The Babysitter is grating. The film jumps speeds at random, pops in and out of POV, tosses graphics on the screen, and utilizes a hard rock soundtrack to give it flair. Gunshots shoot people across the room. Wounds splatter blood everywhere. It’s a gaudy mess.
The one thing that The Babysitter attempts that is intriguing is the subversion of cliches. The narrative turns don’t shy away from doing what would otherwise break the reality of a slasher movie.
This said, the lack of subtlety and atonal sense of humor makes The Babysitter more cringe-inducing than exciting. The best word for it may be immaturity. Our characters speak with crass mouths that feel entirely unnatural, seemingly to make us laugh. But the script and acting do not accomplish the lofty task of making funny the notions of putting a tampon in a gunshot wound or a man thinking he has contracted AIDS because he’s swallowed the blood of dead people.
The Babysitter seemingly wants to challenge the horror comedy genre. It doesn’t. It doubles down the male gaze of the genre, to gratuitous lengths. It goes above and beyond to be flashy, which only succeeds in being gaudy. It treats its characters like walking punchlines, meaning none of them ever become real or interesting.
The Babysitter is a bloody mess, and not in a good way. It is trite and unfunny and borderline offensive to fans of the genre. It is juvenile and blatant and obvious. It wants to skewer the genre but succeeds in only tripping over itself as it pauses constantly to make detracting jokes. All in all, it has all of the makings of a romp without being any fun at all.
The Babysitter: F
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)