Over the past few years, I’ve seen a ton of reports concerning Netflix’s efforts to become an original programming behemoth. You probably have, too. Netflix is spending this many billions of dollars on shows. Netflix bought the rights to a movie in which Will Smith plays a cop partnered up with an orc. (No, seriously. It’s called Bright and it’s coming out in December.) And so on.
I was never skeptical of Netflix’s approach—it would be stupid to doubt the company’s instincts at this point—but I have always wondered how I fit into this new world order. The whole idea, after all, is that you’ll wander aimlessly through the walled garden of Netflix’s infinite delights until something strikes your fancy. And you will never leave.
Now, I know plenty of people who let the tides of random chance lead them to their next obsessive binge. They seem happy enough. But that’s never been my style. I tend to go by recommendations and reviews, not whim. So I never thought Netflix would catch me in its web.
. . . And yet there I was one recent October evening, pondering which horror movie to take in that I might report on its wonder (or delightful awfulness) to you, fearless reader. I own plenty of horror flicks I’ve yet to watch. I have lists of unseen movies that are readily available to stream. I approach this whole operation with the kind of scientific rigor that is the hallmark of any nerd wasting his time on something fun but ultimately inconsequential.
Rather than watch any of those ruthlessly vetted movies in my queue, though, I found myself doing what I never thought I would: I moseyed around the app until I lit on The Babysitter, yet another in a growing line of Netflix originals—or, to be more precise, studio flicks for which Netflix has preemptively bought the rights. To my horror, it all worked out exactly how Reed Hastings (the Big N’s CEO) predicted; I can’t say why, exactly, I decided to watch this movie above all others. In that moment, it just struck my fancy.
It was just there.
And, hey! The Babysitter is pretty good!
The setup is simple: 12-year-old Cole is, in the words of his peers, a bit of a pussy. As such, he’s the last kid in his class who still has a babysitter. Bee the babysitter is, of course, smoking hot—but she is not, despite all seeming visual evidence to the contrary, Margot Robbie. She is, in fact, one Samara Weaving, niece of Hugo Weaving, our beloved Agent Smith/Red Skull/Elrond/V. (Which is a helluva geek-cred CV.) Not that I’m complaining about there being a close approximation of Margot Robbie out there; it was just a tad confusing there for a few minutes.
Even more confusing: the cheerleader on the poster for The Babysitter is not Samara Weaving. That’s right: the star of the movie isn’t the one person on said movie’s poster. This is Samara Weaving:
Anyway. Back to the plot synopsis. One night, Cole stays up late to see how Bee occupies her time once he goes to sleep. This after the age-appropriate girl next door promises him Bee is getting it on downstairs with her boyfriend because, duh, that’s what babysitters do.
Bee, as it happens, isn’t having boyfriend sex. No: she’s staging a satanic ritual in Cole’s living room. Once they spot him, Bee’s fellow cultists scramble to hunt Cole down. Horror and Home-Alone-but-for-keeps hilarity ensue.
There’s just one problem.
Bee’s buds are a group of high school clichés come to life. You’ve got your vacuous cheerleader, she of the movie poster; the buff, shirtless star quarterback; a spastic and incredibly retrograde African-American comic relief character who is (surprise!) quick to die; and an inscrutably sinister Asian girl.
The QB, played by a winsomely psychotic Robbie Amell, is the only standout; he has a really funny scene with Cole I won’t spoil here, but it came completely out of left field. Otherwise, the Cheerleader, the Loud Black Guy and the Mysterious Asian Girl are stereotypes pulled straight out of a Michael Bay movie. (And not the One Good Michael Bay Movie, Pain and Gain. I’m serious. It’s worth a watch.) Hollywood: DO BETTER.
That glaring flaw aside, The Babysitter is good horror fun. Its premise is simple but effective. The acting by the leads is well above average. And it doesn’t go exactly where you expect.
One note of caution: this movie is directed by McG. If you don’t know what that means, no worries. If you do, and if his frenetic style bothers you . . . well, it’s worth a watch anyway. Just come prepared. I for one kind of admire his stubbornness in not having changed his style one iota since Charlie’s Angels way, way back when.
Yes: I really enjoyed The Babysitter . . . thus becoming one more zombie in the Netflix army. And that, my friends, is the true horror that is 2017.