The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)
★ / ★★★★
If I could describe “The Babysitter: Killer Queen” in one word, it would be “interminable.” It is the very definition of a lazy sequel to a well-intentioned but middle-of-the-road horror-comedy which accomplished only one thing: It is made abundantly clear that Samara Weaving and Judah Lewis—babysitter and child, respectively—are stars. Since then, the former has had a breakthrough, but the latter has not. Every second of this follow-up, directed by McG, is a sobering reminder that Weaving and Lewis deserve far stronger material that is equal to their talent. Look closely and notice how it feels as though everyone in the film—veterans and relative newcomers alike—either looks or sounds half-asleep because the screenplay is not only dead, it stinks of putrefaction.
The story picks up two years following Cole’s encounter (Lewis) with a satanic cult. No one believes the boy’s claims due to lack of physical evidence from the crime scene. And so, Cole, now a junior in high school, is put on multiple heavy medications in order to get his “delusions” under control. His parents (Ken Marino, Leslie Bibb—in demeaning roles that require them to divide their individual IQ by 3) do not know what else to do given their son won’t admit that he made “all the cult stuff” up. They wish to send him to a school for troubled teens. Maybe that’ll fix him.
This could have been a powerful jumping off point for the story, an excellent chance to critique 1) how modern American teenagers are overly medicated and 2) how parents, usually from privileged backgrounds, crave easy fixes for their children. Instead, the material busies itself with hyperbolic—at times downright cartoonish—representations of American high school life: bullying from peers, blissfully unaware adults, how teenagers nowadays just want to get away from their parents and party. Are you asleep yet?
It is all supposed to be comic—hip because pop culture references are thrown onto our laps nearly every other scene—but the experience is actually empty because there is a deficiency of honesty to the material. Here we have Lewis who has the gift of being able to modulate minute facial expressions (observe closely during the rare dramatic scenes as Lewis relaxes his face, how he allows us to read precisely what Cole is feeling and thinking at the time) and he is forced into a character who did not grow emotionally or psychologically from his traumatic experiences in the predecessor. Why should we root for him this time? Yes, a new reason is required. It is not enough that his life is in danger. What about it?
I blame writers McG, Dan Lagana, Brad Morris, and Jimmy Warden for not understanding and loving teenagers—and for not wanting to understand and love them. What they understand and love is the money, the budget, the funds to make just another forgettable movie to pad their resumes. If they really did care, even if the end product turned out badly, we would have sensed even a whiff of it. I felt nothing from these filmmakers other than greed and pessimism.
And so we go through the motions of watching Cole and Phoebe (Jenna Ortega), the transfer student and eventual romantic interest, kill new and returning satanic cult members one by one (Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, Andrew Bachelor, Hana Mae Lee). It usually ends with someone getting decapitated, run over, or maimed. Cue the painfully fake-looking blood and chunks gushing out of orifices. CGI and the like. Fake explosions. It is all so tiring. How many times must we be subjected to the same formula with the same outcome? How is this entertainment? What does McG want the viewers to take away from all of this? Other than to eradicate our brain cells, what is the point of this movie?
“The Babysitter: Killer Queen” is made by people who do not care if you throw away an hour and forty minutes of your life. They take you for an idiot because they expect you to be entertained by delivering material that belongs not at the bottom of the barrel nor directly underneath said barrel—but several yards deep into the Earth. This sort of passionless, flavorless, by-the-numbers dirge should not make it onto any film. It is an insult to sit through a project that lacks intellectual curiosity, the desire to show audience genuine humanity, the willingness to come from a specific angle and offer comments or critiques about where we are as a society. Film is not just a medium. It must be used—to show where we are (or were) and where we must go.
Effective movies within the horror and comedy genres are pointed—so pointed at times that they have the power to incite conversation. The filmmakers involved here possess no understanding or appreciation of this fact. And so this trash is a result. No one should be surprised.