Netflix really is the place to be for creatives. Everyone from legends like Scorsese to edgy/controversial directors like David Ayer and even international up-and-comers like Bong Joon-ho (Okja, Snowpiercer) are finding a home for their own special brand of filmmaking in lieu of having a studio exec step all over their creative process (and that’s not even getting into the very long list of TV show creators on Netflix). Even directors who you may have written off altogether are finding Netflix to be the perfect environment to truly execute their visions.
Take McG’s The Babysitter, for example. McG, while being a workhorse, has never really been considered an auteur director. Charlie’s Angels (both of them), We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation – it’s been a little difficult to get a read on this guy. With his Netflix debut, McG shows exactly what happens when you let a director just do his thing, unfettered – you get a damned entertaining and original movie. The Babysitter hits you like some kind of modern grindhouse vision of fucked-up beauty that contains a surprising amount of genuine heart and emotion.
Synopsis: “Cole (Judah Lewis) is madly in love with his babysitter (Samara Weaving) Bee. She’s hot, funny, and popular. One night, in a moment of defiance, Cole secretly stays up his bedtime to discover she’s actually a cold-blooded killer who’s in league with the Devil. He now must spend his night evading Bee’s band of killers who will stop at nothing to prevent Cole from spilling their dark secret. It’s up to Cole to survive the night (and blow up a few people along the way).”
(FYI – there are some spoilers from here on out)
With any horror-comedy movie, it’s easy to get lost in the gore, violence and jokes. While there are some superior kills in this movie, it doesn’t lean on them as a crutch for storytelling. We don’t just revel in the director’s special brand of idiosyncratically stylized visuals (the sequence on the bus when Cole & Melanie are talking and everyone else is in slow motion? Gorgeous! McG puts a lot of work into the non-action-y parts of the film too!), McG and writer Brian Duffield create two leads that keep things grounded even when the viscera starts flying.
Cole goes from a perpetually-bullied, timid boy to a more assertive, self-reliant young man. Similar to Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) in Edge of Tomorrow, Cole continually “levels-up” with each new murderous teen-aged psycho that comes his way. A truly bizarre coming of age story, but one that still retains the emotional poignance of a more conventional movie. Especially in relation to his boyhood crush on his babysitter-come-tormentor. Bee is a surprisingly multi-dimensional character (especially for the horror genre which usually spends little time fleshing out the villains beyond “they’re evil”) in that her affection for Cole actually appears to be genuine. Sure she’s trying to make a literal deal with devil, but that doesn’t mean you can write her off wholesale. Can’t blame a gal for having ambitions, after all.
The dynamic between her and Cole feels authentic and makes the eventual betrayal hit that much harder. Initially Cole reacts the way a wounded child would – unsure, frightened and ultimately in disbelief. After we see Cole fight his way through the assorted villains (btw, Robbie Amell as the oddly-supportive, yet still psycho-murdering QB was easily the best side-character in the film) his ascension to dirt n’ blood covered mini-John McClane (from the first Die Hard, obviously) truly prepares him for his confrontation with Bee – both physically and emotionally. The final showdown isn’t just a badass moment of speechifying, it is wrought with an heart-felt underpinning that catches you off guard. Bee reveals a softer, more vulnerable side to her usually cool, calculated persona (you know, relatively speaking, she is still a murdering cultist) that adds a great deal of weight to the moment.
Look, the film isn’t all feelings. McG comes hard with the zany action and fun-filled gore. Anyone who enjoyed the over-the-top wackiness of Evil Dead 2 will definitely take to the kind of comedy McG is going for. He layers in a grindhouse aesthetic over everything to let the audience know EXACTLY the kind of bizarre brutality coming their way. This isn’t some desaturated, morose Haunting of Insidious Conjurings. This is a loud, bombastic, ball-kicking, eye-poking, head-stabbing, “oh shit! Things are really going off the rails now” horror film!
If the aforementioned ends up being McG’s brand of filmmaking from here on out, that would be pretty fucking rad because this movie was like Crank, but for wacked-out horror (trust me, that’s a huge compliment). The cinematic world needs more weird, original and absolutely gives-no-fucks-about-test-audiences movies like these.
Check out The Babysitter on Netflix now and let us know what you thought on Twitter @Official_FAN