If “The Babysitter” had a modicum of self-awareness, it would be a perfect movie. It has all the magic components of a brilliant horror-comedy in the vein of “Jennifer’s Body” or “Heathers.” There’s a teenage girl who turns out to be a murderous monster, former child stars trying way too hard to shake off their image of innocence and a by-the-numbers horror plot so predictable that it shoots the moon past boring and almost becomes fun again. It’s the story of Cole, (Judah Lewis, “Point Break”) a nerdy, put-upon 12-year-old in love with his babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving, “Monster Trucks”). Cole is bullied at school and scared of his own shadow, but his one solace is the quality time he gets to spend with Bee, a senior who’s smart, beautiful and preternaturally cool. He gets curious about what Bee does in his house after he goes to sleep, so he stays up and spies on her, only to become the witness to a satanic ritual slaughter of one of Bee’s classmates.
The rest of the film is an extended chase scene, as Cole fights off each one of Bee’s cult members. All the classic horror archetypes are there: the dumb sadistic jock (Robbie Amell, “ARQ”), the Black guy who, of course, dies first (played by Vine star King Bach, “Fifty Shades of Black”), the cheerleader (Bella Thorne, “You Get Me”) and the goth (Hana Mae Lee, “Pitch Perfect 2”). But “The Babysitter” is decidedly not a horror movie. Director McG (“3 Days to Kill”) decides to go for a quirky, “Home Alone” vibe in which Cole engineers increasingly wacky/decreasingly creative methods of offing the cult members (Accidental hanging by tree house! Fireworks! Spiders! Super sharp trophy!).
You could call it a comedy — after all it’s a light, breezy movie that certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. But all attempts at humor fall horribly flat, usually because of a bad sense of timing and editing, and the fact that most of the comic moments are clunkily written dick jokes. Case in point: Cole kicks the jock in the crotch, thinking this will help him triumphantly escape, but the jock jumps up seconds later and shouts, “You missed my dick Cole! And I’ve got a big dick!”
The movie is filled with these awful, cringeworthy, was-that-supposed-to-be-funny moments, interspersed with scenes of explicit exploitation. We’re treated to long, slow full-length pans of Bee’s body, an extended and completely gratuitous girl-on-girl makeout scene — and all the tired racist, sexist nonsense that pervades the horror cliches “The Babysitter” uses. The Black guy dies first, the cheerleader is the slut who deserves to die at the hands of brutal, gendered violence, the nerdy hero is rewarded with a girl at the end as though she’s some prize to be won. It’s the same old tropes, recycled here in the least original way possible.
The one saving grace of “The Babysitter” is the title character herself. Bee and Cole are the only ones with any semblance of a personality or a character arc, but Samara Weaving really makes Bee feel like a person in a way that Judah Lewis just doesn’t for Cole. She plays Bee’s specific brand of effortless cool well, oscillating easily between laid back and vicious without a blink. Bee might not be a particularly scary villain, but her charisma radiates off the screen. In a movie that tries way too hard and consistently misses the mark, it’s nice to see Weaving’s character come together so well without noticing the seams.
“The Babysitter” probably isn’t the worst movie to come out this year, but it’s definitely among the least consequential. It’s not doing anything that dozens of other movies haven’t done much better. That’s not to say that every movie should be breaking new ground and changing the game, but if a movie is going to use the same tired formula, they should at least do it well. Profoundly unfunny, unscary and unoriginal, “The Babysitter” accomplishes nothing except for wasting 90 minutes of your time.