Second Sight: The Babysitter: An Unexpected Guilty Pleasure

Horror has experienced a renaissance in the 21st century.  Rising from the depths of mindless slashers and pedantic sequels, independent film makers lead the charge to revitalize the genre with cerebral, socially relevant, and downright creepy films.  Masterworks such as Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin and David Robert Mitchell's It Follows demonstrated how malleable horror is when it is given room to breathe.  Throughout the history of cinema, most of the regaled horror films are unique with their approaches.  John Carpenter's The Thing is a masterclass on practical effects and isolation while The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the centerpiece of German Expressionism, using odd angles and deep shadows whose compositions continue to be mimicked today.  

With 2017 continuing to be a difficult time for the industry, horror continues to flourish, with transcendental offerings such as Personal Shopper and mother! to the record setting, nostalgic nightmare IT.  However, comedy is also a valuable part of horror history.  Abbot and Costello's creature features are still beloved today while Sam Raimi's unforgettable Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn set the standard for satirical, slapstick gags drenched in blood.    Happy Death Day released on Friday the 13th, taking the overused slasher genre in a familiar, but undeniably fun direction.  Another film also released on the 13th.  The McG directed Netflix original The Babysitter

McG is a maligned director, with offerings such as Charlie's Angels, Terminator Salvation, and This Means War in his portfolio, and here he finally manages to climb above mediocrity.  The Babysitter is an imperfect, shallow, utterly predictable experience, and this is part of what makes it so much fun.  The setup: Cole is a bullied 12-year-old that has a good relationship with his babysitter/protector Bee.  When his parents go out of town, Cole discovers that Bee and her friends are into something sinister which forces him to have to fight for his life.  The cardboard cutout premise matches every single character in the film.  They are all archetypes which exist solely within the perpetual wink wink nod nod that McG gives to the viewer.  

Brian Duffield's script is frequently unimaginative with respect to plot, however the characters are fully realized concepts that somehow manage to work.  The interplay between Bee and Cole is easily the best part.  Samara Weaving and Judah Lewis easily emulate the big sister little brother dynamic that is sandwiched between gaudy violence and candy colored pop culture references.  The entire affair lands somewhere between throwback 90's comedy and glitter bomb grand guignol.  The rest of Bee's crew is filled with stereotypes that glide between wry humor and retreaded clich├ęs that border on offensive, reinforcing the notion that the viewer must be in the right frame of mind for an experience such as this.  

The film attempts to take a meta approach, including breaking the 4th wall by directly addressing the audience with visuals and catch phrases and this is either going to induce laughter or disdain.  Shane Hurlbut's cinematography is easily the film's strongest element, combining tired compositions from coming of age comedies with quick moving chase sequences and pastel flooded interiors.  The violence is often quick and jolting and Hurlbut's realization of McG's bubbly ambiance creates a unique blend that is both memorable and engaging.  The Babysitter is a movie that wants to have fun with the viewer, and in order for it to be effective, the door must open both ways.  

Streaming now on Netflix, The Babysitter is a fun homage to the cheesy films that many horror fans revere.  This is the kind of film you would watch with friends in junior high school, huddled around a television in the dark at a sleepover, hoping a parent wouldn't come downstairs to turn it off.  Ultimately, this is the definition of a guilty pleasure.  It won't resonate with everyone, will gain legitimate ire from others, and yet there will be those who adore this pink plastic gem of a horror comedy.  

--Kyle Jonathan