Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Babysitter (USA, 2017)

(Spoilers.) Ah, the babysitter. Tragically misrepresented in the movies. Beginning with their looks. In all three babysitter movies we know of — The Babysitter (1969 / trailer), The Babysitter (1995 / trailer) and The Babysitter (2017) — the titular babysitters are all rather hot, if only by the tastes of their respective era. Dunno, but let's get real: in real life, does anyone out there really remember ever having had a knockout babysitter? Hell, no. If any flick named The Babysitter really wants to achieve an ounce of believability or mildly reflect reality — if one can even speak of such when talking about a movie featuring devil-worshiping "teenagers" with an incredible talent for cleaning house — the titular character would have to be, if not butt-ugly, then at least a plain Jane. But then, who would watch the movie?
Luckily, The Babysitter is not a realistic film: it is a blood-drenched black comedy featuring a wet-dream-worthy babysitter named Bee (Samara Weaving of Mayhem [2017 / trailer] and Bad Girl [2016 / trailer]) who pops the cherry of her 12-year-old ward of the night, Cole (Judah Lewis)...
OK, so Bee doesn't pop Cole's cherry, but he probably was wishing she would before the shit hit the fan. Pretty much like every man who watches this movie wishes he were also playing spin the bottle with her and her friends — at least, that is, until she puts two knives into the skull of the "winning" hapless loser Samuel (Doug Haley, found in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked [2013 / trailer]), whom she kisses soon after her male-fantasy lesbian kiss with the cheerleader, Allison (Bella Thorne of Big Sky [2014 / trailer]).
Director McG, who rose from music videos to Charlie's Angels (2000 / trailer) & Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003 / trailer) only to nosedive from Terminator: Salvation (2009 / trailer) to lame-ass TV movies (and beaucoup bucks as a producer), brings his hipster style to this uneven tale that is more fun than it deserves to be and hardly as fun as it could have been. The script takes the basic idea of a pubescent kid's wet dream fantasy (the knockout babysitter) and turns it on its head by reversing the basic structure of the classic body-count movie.
Normally, at least until Wes Craven's Scream (1996 / trailer) and its sequels, a body-counter has one psychopath leaving a trail of dead people behind as one after the other the various victims wander off alone; in The Babysitter, the intended fodder actually manages to do away with various psychopaths, one after the other, as they wander around alone looking to do him in.
Interestingly enough, and probably intentionally, the devil-worshiping psychos are almost all body-count film stereotypes and, aside from the hot blonde Bee, include the alibi Afro-American quipster (Andrew Bachelor of Meet the Blacks [2016 / trailer]), a generically handsome jock (Robbie Amell of Devil's Night [2007 / trailer] and Arq [2016 / trailer]), a cheerleader, and — somewhat less common to the genre — an Asian American (Hana Mae Lee). Indeed, in regards to the last listed, prior to this flick here the only western-world body-counter we remember seeing with an Asian character was Paul Hunt's obscure and hilariously abysmal slasher Twisted Nightmare (1987 / film), which featured a hotly muscular Darryl Tong, "a real-life fitness trainer [with 80s bad hair] whose facility with a crossbow was worked into the script" [Mondo Digital], as fodder.
The Babysitter is a fun film made by guys and for guys. Not that it is full of naked flesh or particularly misogynistic (no helpless women victims here, you could argue, despite some dead women), but the viewpoint — the visual focus, the titillated eye — is definitely based upon the male fantasy of not just the babysitter straight men all wish they had had, but the perfect girl that all male cis genders wish they could have. Only, the fantasy suddenly goes way off the deep end midway, and Ms. Perfection reveals herself to be total misperfection. (OK, the word doesn't exist — sue us.)
The movie does do some visual lip service to the possible [straight] female audience by having one of the males of its murderous quintet, the jock, go shirtless most of the time, thus giving the audience the extended pleasure of his ideal physique, but face it: shirtless guys don't do as much for girls as shirtless girls do for guys. Indeed, shirtless guys probably don't do as much for girls as even a girl in a hot bikini does for guys, and while guys get no nude female in The Babysitter, they do get Bee in a drool-inducing bikini. Indeed, there is probably no scene that better reveals the movie's male gaze, and the hormonal overdrive of pubescent males, than the pool swim scene in which the viewer experiences Cole's view of Bee stripping down to her red bikini in slow motion. Of the seven people watching the movie at our screening, the scene got embarrassed laughs of identification from those males who remembered puberty's insecure desires for the unfamiliar, loud catcalls from the guys lacking long-term memory, and simultaneous dismissively dry "Uh-huhs" from the two females. (Did we mention that The Babysitter talks more to guys than women?)
Still, it's odd that a movie like this supposedly sat two years on the shelf before finally being picked up by Netfux. It might not be as successfully hip as, say, other recent exercises in neo-postmodern self-aware genre moviemaking like Edgar Wright's name-actor heavy Baby Driver (2017 / trailer), but it is an entertaining and quirky and well-made spin on the familiar that, while slow to start, is never boring. Crisply filmed, tightly edited, and (unbelievably enough, considering the no-name cast) well acted, The Babysitter drips as much gore as it does pop culture references — many of which one might doubt that even a nerdy 12-year-old like Cole would know. (Seriously: Billy Jack [1971 / trailer]?) But Cole, as much of a wimpy loser as he is, is actually a likeable guy, and thus easy to root for — all the more so when he finally takes the bull by the horns to save his peach-fuzz balls.
Aside from Bee and Cole and the wanna-be killers, The Babysitter is also populated by a small plethora of throw-away characters — parents and bullies — who manage to instigate laughs on their own, some of the meanest (non death- or gore-related) laughs being at the expense of the parental figures. (Really, if the scene of Cole's parents at the hotel is a reflection of them working at their relationship, they should get a divorce.)
Like most of the rare dead-teenage movies in which parents are seen, such figures of familial authority are in the picture but briefly and disappear by the time the blood begins to flow. Too much so, one can't help but notice: the events may occur in a dreamy ideal of pristine suburban perfection, but even in Pleasantville neighbors would probably show up to rubberneck when cop cars, sirens screaming, pull up at a house on the street. Likewise, neither gunshots nor explosions seem to awaken anybody on the block, nor, for that matter, does anyone even throw a shoe when Cole runs across lawns and streets shouting (something to the effect of) "Come & get me! Here I am!" The closing credits jump scare is also pretty stupid: one might argue that such a scene is mandatory for teen horror movies, but be what it may, such scenes are also so generic and expected that they no longer work — at least, not for anything other than being an easy way out for a possible, if doubtful, sequel.
The Babysitter will never be seen as a classic, but it is good bloody and silly fun. Especially for guys. And while it'll probably never get the sequel the final scene would allow, give it ten to fifteen years and, like Cabin Fever (2002 / trailer and 2016 / trailer), it'll surely be subject to an unnecessary remake. But why wait? Watch the original now. On Netfux.

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