“The Babysitter” has the look of a movie whose script was forgotten in the bottom drawer of a a talent agent’s desk. It feels like a film that should have come out in 2012 or 2013, and is only being made and released now as a write-off for tax purposes. . It’s a movie we’ll only ever see because its on Netflix, even though it would have been most appreciated if it had been seen at the theaters years ago. It’s an earnest appeal to horror movie and teen comedy nostalgia, even though it’s never quite scary or ever really that funny.
Judah Lewis plays Cole, a 12-year-old whose dominating personality trait is the dominance he lets people have over him. He’s a pussy, unable to protect or further himself when greeted with adversity. Sometimes that adversity is a bully, other times it’s being afraid to drive or to act on a crush from a friendly girl down the street. The only person who does bring out a more alpha side to Cole is Bee, his blonde, bombshell babysitter played by Samara Weaving. Bee can tune into geek culture while still being on the same wavelength as the varsity football squad. She’s every 12-year-old’s dream girl, the only difference for Cole is that Bee tucks him into bed each night.
But, things turn south when Cole stays up past his bedtime and witnesses Bee and her friends murder a nerdy one of their peers as part of a sacrificial ritual. Cole then must manage to elude queen Bee and the murderous stings of her cronies, becoming increasingly confident with every broken vertebrae and dazzling, firework death along his way. It’s silly and full of plot holes and none of the characters except for Bee and Allison, a cheerleader played by Bella Thorne, are that interesting. I think that John, one a loudmouth stooge played by Andrew Bachelor, is supposed to be a satirical take on token black characters in 90s horror films. But the supposed satire is executed poorly, with John’s dialogue being more obnoxious and offensive than anything else.
Even though Cole’s relationships are fractured and unbelievable, Judah Lewis does an enviable job with his performance. Cole isn’t painted as one of the insanely, overly-articulate boys from “It” who know just the right thing to say and just the right time, nor is he given overly-awkward traits or behaviors typically associated with bullied characters, like Dahmer in “My Friend Dahmer.” Cole represents someone who hasn’t gone on their big journey of being a person yet, someone who you can’t really agree or disagree with since they haven’t developed their own opinions about things. It’s an interesting look into just how much a confident, supportive elder figure like Bee can impact the development of someone like Cole. “The Babysitter” proves just how positive role models like Bee can change our lives, even when they’re trying to kill us.