Bride of The Horror. The Horror. Round 4: The Babysitter

Or, that whole Netflix takeover thing? It’s really happening.

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.

Bride of The Horror. The Horror. Round 1: Little Evil

Back in October of 2015 I plowed through a heap o’ horror movies and scribbled my thoughts concerning them on this here internet. I had intended to repeat that feat in 2016, but, you know, something something something life. If I recall correctly, October ’16 was The Month of the Free HBO Now Preview and I was caching up on Game of Thrones, leaving no free time for movies.

Well, the GoT catch-up is caught, ain’t nothing free about HBO Now now, and I’m back on the horror horse. Like some kind of horseman . . . maybe . . . I don’t know . . . a headless one? Yeah. A headless horseman. Has anyone ever made a movie about that?

Anyway, we kick off Bride of The Horror. The Horror. with Little Evil, a Netflix exclusive from this very year of 2017.

Or, the perfect horror movie gateway drug.

The setup is simple. Adam Scott marries Evangeline Lilly, then flails at bonding with her creepy son, whom Adam begins to suspect might just be the Antichrist. So: The Omen, played for laughs, with a few visual gags from other horror classics thrown in. (Poltergeist, Children of the Corn . . . you’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em.)

Little Evil is one of those almost-but-not-quite movies. Almost creepy, but too obvious in its callbacks to surprise you. Almost hilarious, but more in a smiles-and-occasional-chuckles than an actual belly-laughing way. Inside the wrapper of all the horror tropes Little Evil employs is a nugget of the very real, awkward, sometimes terrifying, sometimes funny effort that goes into bonding with one’s stepfamily. But it plays those tropes too safely to get to a moment of real empathy for the characters. It’s entertaining but not quotable, a little touching without actually meaning anything.

Essentially, your enjoyment of Little Evil is going to depend on how much you like watching Adam Scott reprise his role from Parks and Recreation as the good-hearted guy who is perpetually befuddled and/or overwhelmed by the craziness of the world around him. I for one like him as that character, so I didn’t mind seeing it brought back for this movie. Nothing wrong with an actor leaning into his strengths—Jason Bateman seemingly puts out three or four variations on Michael Bluth every year, and no one’s complaining about that.

(Also, Clancy Brown makes an appearance as a preacher who might [surprise!] not be as virtuous as he seems. Always good to see the Kurgan in action.)

Here’s the beautiful thing about Little Evil, though: it’s a perfect gateway drug to real horror movies. Say you’ve got a significant other who doesn’t care for the genre. Show them Little Evil. It’s never actually scary, its humor is fairly safe, and it’s kind of sweet in the end, a nice family comedy built around satanic rituals. If your SO enjoys Little Evil, maybe then you explain how it’s a comedic take on the The Omen and hey, why don’t we watch that for comparison’s sake? And from there you might as well watch the other “Satan is really into kids” classics from the Seventies . . . and before you know it, y’all are watching Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist and, voilà, you’ve transformed your boo into a horror fanatic!

Everyone wins: you. Your SO. Satan. Good times for all!