2014 was a very good year, at least as far as the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays is concerned. Alongside the script for what would become the Oscar-winning film Manchester by the Sea, that year’s list included the screenplays for Michael Keaton’s excellent The Founder, this past April’s sleeper Gifted, and 2016’s surprisingly decent The Shallows with Blake Lively. It also included a script for a teen-fueled horror-comedy loaded with equal parts of splatter-gore and black comedy called The Babysitter.
The only thing it shares in common with any of those movies is the fact that it is…well, a movie (and not really even that, since it’s the latest Netflix original—and not a theatrical feature). But The Babysitter still manages to be a pretty entertaining little (bloody) romp. Starring Samara Weaving as Bee, the titular caregiver, the movie centers on young Cole (Judah Lewis), a put-upon 12-year-old who spends his days getting bullied, all the while oblivious to the affections of Melanie, the cute little girl who lives down the lane (Emily Alyn Lind). Bee, meanwhile, sticks up for her little guy and even seems to share his sci-fi geekiness. It all seems a little too good to be true, so naturally it is.
One night Cole stays up to see what his dream girl Bee does after she tucks him in, and he discovers that she’s having some friends over for a combo spin-the-bottle, truth-or-dare party. Everything is fine until she two-fist-stabs one of the party-goers in the brain. Blood splatters everywhere (and I mean everywhere), and then Cole overhears that the murder is just a prelude; he’s the next victim, because this gaggle of devil worshipers needs to sacrifice an innocent young boy. It’s then that The Babysitter kicks into gear, becoming a sanguine combo of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Home Alone as Cole gets to work trying to stay alive, even if it means finding ways to dispatch the party-goers, which include Pitch Perfect‘s Hana Mae Lee alongside The DUFF‘s Bella Thorne and Robbie Amell, one-by-one.
Directed by McG (3 Days to Kill), The Babysitter does just enough to be effective as a horror/comedy and not so much that it begins to spoof itself. It could have very easily devolved into Scary Movie 12, but McG’s stylized, kinetic approach (which is often reminiscent of Zombieland with all its on-screen typography) saves it. The script by Brian Duffield (Insurgent), even with all its unabashed blood-bathing and cartoonish gore, somehow remains smart throughout, full of wit and charm and even some genuine laughs. While not as seriously meta as Scream, it still brings the same vibe, with a few bonks on the funny bone tossed in for good measure.
There’s nothing terribly scary to speak of, and the blood-and-guts is so over the top that you may find yourself hoping McG and company can continue outdo themselves with each new kill. True horror fans best look elsewhere, but if you want an almost spot-on mix of clever humor, mild tension, and buckets of blood, The Babysitter is worth a call.