If you’ve ever had nightmares about what could happen when the babysitter comes to visit at night, you’d better not watch Netflix’s “The Babysitter.” This new film from directors McG and Helli Hardy is both obscure and terrifying.
“The Babysitter” features gratuitous blood and gore
Let’s be upfront here: you probably don’t want to watch “The Babysitter” if you’re afraid of gratuitous blood, gore and violence. In some ways, the amount of violence is over the top. Here’s just a partial list of the violent deaths you’ll see in the movie: a stabbing, a shooting, a hanging and a fireplace poker being thrown through a person’s head. You get the idea now, right?
There’s lots and lots of blood involved here, almost to a point where it’s cartoonish. In fact, one reviewer has referred to this film as a “horror-comedy.” One character, after being splattered with a generous amount of blood, starts freaking out over the risks of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease from all that blood. In another scene, a high school cheerleader (played by Bella Thorne) who has been shot in the breast area also starts freaking out in a way that you won’t soon forget.
“The Babysitter” will make you relive your childhood fears
The main protagonist of this film is the 12-year-old boy Cole (played by Judah Lewis), who is bullied both verbally and physically by the babysitter Bee (played by Samantha Weaving) and her group of high school friends. The problem here is that her “friends” – including a shirtless, smug jock (played by Robbie Arnell) – are also members of a dangerous satanic cult. This cult must make ritual sacrifices, and so the real goal of “babysitting” is to find the right child victim to sacrifice to Satan.
You can immediately see here why the young boy is terrified out of his mind – the hot babysitter that he’s been fantasizing about is really part of a satanic cult, and she has plans to sacrifice him when he’s asleep. When he stays up late at night to see what she’s up to, that’s when things start to take a turn for the worse. There’s nothing more terrifying than seeing a group of people prepare to make a human sacrifice.
What makes this film so effective is that the viewer is often watching the action through the eyes of this scared little boy. And that can’t help but to dredge up painful childhood memories. Remember when you were afraid of the dark, or when you thought that monsters lived in your closet? Prepared to be terrified by Netflix’s “The Babysitter.”
“The Babysitter” is also an experiment in 1980’s horror nostalgia
One of the co-directors of this film is McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol), who is known as much for his MTV videos as for his serious film work (which includes “Charlie’s Angels” and “Terminator Salvation”) or TV work (which includes “Supernatural”). In his videos, McG delighted in melding together images and a unique visual vocabulary that perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
For example, some of the pop culture archetypes in his MTV music videos are instantly recognizable – the wannabe young white gangster wearing a massive gold chain in “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” or the sexy bikini babes dancing on the beach in Smash Mouth’s “Walking on the Sun” (which won the Billboard Pop Video of the Year).
Thus, it is this same sort of visual vocabulary that really dominates this Netflix film, and perhaps one reason why the film feels so obscure. It is like channeling the nostalgia of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, using the visual vocabulary of that time to depict the current era. It can be jarring and disjointing at times, but it works.
Here’s just one example: 12-year-old Cole loves talking about Hollywood movies like “Predator” and “Alien” with his sexy hot babysitter. Moreover, all of the babysitter’s high school friends are easily recognized members of archetypal cliques – the dumb, shirtless jock and the bimbo blonde cheerleader are just the two most obvious examples. So you can almost imagine how McG pitched this horror film to Netflix: “It’s like one of my MTV music videos, but also full of gore, blood and cartoonish violence.” In such a way, this film comes off as both obscure and terrifying.
“The Babysitter” has all the classic horror thrills you’ve come to expect
Some critics have noted that “The Babysitter” is full of horror film clichés – it’s almost as if McG and Helli Hardy have mined all the best moments from the most recognizable horror films, and combined them together. That may be true, but it’s also worth noting that “The Babysitter” is really much more in the style of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – good, campy fun with an overriding horror motif and young teenage characters.
Thus, there are plenty of classic horror thrills – lots of eerie, dark music; scary-looking rituals for a satanic cult; and plenty of jump scares. If you’re watching this Netflix horror film at home, you’ll likely jump off your couch at some of these scenes. The violence, gore and blood can be excessive at times, and it makes this film very terrifying.
“The Babysitter” is more evidence of Netflix solidifying its original content within the horror genre
At one time, Netflix was known primarily for its serious dramas – such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.” Now, it’s clear that Netflix is getting very involved in the horror genre, and that’s a good thing. In this case, a collaboration with music video legend McG is a clever way to produce original horror film content that young teens and young adults will want to see.
The overtones of 1980’s horror nostalgia are a nice touch as well, evocative of some of McG’s best video work. You could almost imagine Samantha Weaving (who plays Bee, the babysitter) and her satanic high school friends dancing along to McG videos for Sugar Ray, The Offspring, or Smash Mouth. In short, this new “Babysitter” film is both obscure and terrifying.