Film Review – The Babysitter: Killer Queen
The Babysitter: Killer Queen
Let’s play catch up. A few years ago, teenager Cole (Judah Lewis) discovered that his longtime crush – his babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving) – was actually part of a satanic cult who wanted to take his blood for a ritual which would grant them any life they so desired. Of course, this plan didn’t sit well with Cole, and over the course of a single night he did whatever he could to fight them off. Being young already has its difficulties, but also having to ward off savage killers (one of which you fancy) has got to pile onto the stress.
The Babysitter (2017) didn’t exactly redefine the horror-comedy genre. A lot of the elements that went into it have been done numerous times before. But there was an energy and enthusiasm that made for an entertaining watch. The performances also carried much of the weight, especially from Samara Weaving, who in the last couple of years has established a solid name in genre pictures (see her work in Ready or Not, Mayhem, and earlier this year in Bill & Ted Face the Music). This all made for a surprise hit for Netflix and – as the old story goes – if it worked one time, why not try it again?
Just about all of the central players have returned for the sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020). Director McG resumes his place behind the camera, this time also sharing a writing credit with Dan Lagana, Brad Morris, and Jimmy Warden. However, what made the first film such a surprise is completely missing this time around. This is a classic case of trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice, with the thought that going bigger and louder will somehow equate to repeated success. A joke is funny when it isn’t trying to force the laugh out of you. Here, the production tries so hard to garner a reaction that it ends up doing the complete opposite.
Life has not been easy for Cole in the years since his run in with the cult. He still has trouble fitting in at school and still has to deal with the constant barrage of bullying. To make matters even worse, no one believes him when he tries explaining what happened. Things have gotten to the point that his parents (Ken Marino, Leslie Bibb) are considering sending him to a psychiatric institution. As a means to escape and let out some stress, Cole accepts an invitation from his friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) to cut school and go out to a lake party for the weekend. But before Cole has a chance to unwind, the cult – made up of John (Andrew Bachelor), Max (Robbie Amell), Allison (Bella Thorne), and Sonya (Hana Mae Lee) – return, back on the hunt for him and to finally accomplish their ritual.
If you remember what happened in the first film, the re-emergence of the cult doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. To be fair, not much does. The writing and direction skims over this explanation, instead focusing on Cole yet again trying to outsmart his pursuers. Unlike before, Killer Queen is dreadfully not funny. The jokes aim for the lowest common denominator, with pop cultural references that anyone born post 2000 will probably not understand. Sure, some may get the callbacks to Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), but will the target audience understand who Vanilla Ice was or what “Hammer Time” is? What’s the purpose of referencing Jenny from Forrest Gump (1994)? These jokes don’t have punchlines but are just random shoutouts.
The editing has a clumsy, disorganized style. Previously, it worked to supplement the absurd tone, but here it feels like a jumbled mess. The narrative will often cut to a flash back (sometimes right in the middle of a scene) that is unnecessary. It happens so abruptly that we aren’t given enough time to even process the onscreen information. For each of the cult members, we are brought back to their past selves before the first film, when Bee initially recruited them to join her cause. These bits add little to the characters, telling us things about them we already knew. They operate more like time filler that was added in as an afterthought.
***Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead***
Speaking of Bee, the biggest misstep was the decision to drastically reduce her role. I don’t know if it was due to budget or scheduling issues, but Weaving’s minimal screen time leaves a gigantic hole smack dab in the middle of the film. When she is present, Weaving is given absolutely nothing to do. The production tries to fill the void by increasing Melanie’s contribution as well as introducing a brand-new character in Phoebe (Jenna Ortega) as the rebel who join forces with Cole, but none of this can make up for Bee not being a major part of the sequel. If anything, Bee should have been the central character this time, not Cole.
***End of Spoilers***
Not every successful movie needs a sequel; not every hit needs to be spun off into a franchise. The Babysitter: Killer Queen proves that sometimes good things only happen once.