I had heard some not very good things about THE BABYSITTER, so I was surprised when I, a person who’s generally pretty picky about horror comedies, liked it more than my friends. And then as soon as I said that everybody told me “I liked the first one, but the sequel is terrible.”
And it’s true – the tight construction and sincere sweetness that I found so appealing in THE BABYSITTER are not as present in the sequel. It’s more scattershot, maybe in part because rather than the one original writer Brian Duffield they have a team of Dan Lagana (Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous) and Brad Morris & Jimmy Warden (co-producer of the first one) and McG. But it doesn’t feel crazy enough to say it’s McG going Full Throttle again. For the most part it stays true to the spirit of the first one, but the circumstances of sequelization corner it into being more far-fetched and having to stretch it more to keep the story going and bring back certain characters and stuff.
Luckily it’s also funny and gory enough to be a pretty good time. The returns are diminishing, but I’ll take ‘em.
As I mentioned in the BABYSITTER review, our young protagonist Cole (still Judah Lewis, THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES) has gone through a growth spurt in the three years between movies. He’s in high school now and it’s hard to believe he’s considered a nerd even with his brown corduroy suit, flip phone and calculator watch. Hell, those things might even make him seem hip. But his his troubles have gone from insecurity to genuine trauma. He’s haunted by the violent events of the first film, not only because they messed him up but because to this day nobody believes him that they even happened. His parents are still supportive, but they think they’re supporting him struggling with mental illness.
He aptly compares his situation to Sarah Connor at the beginning of T2. There’s alot of T2 talk for a movie directed by a guy hated for his TERMINATOR sequel – you’d think he wouldn’t want to bring it up. When Cole befriends the weird new girl in school, Phoebe (Jenna Ortega, “Vice President’s Daughter,” IRON MAN THREE), he’s impressed that she’s familiar with T2, which threw me off for a second until I realized oh shit its true, I’m old, and even the most iconic movie from the early ‘90s is ancient history to today’s teens. Which makes it funnier that McG still has them listen to Das EFX and Young MC and (in one of my favorite jokes) be familiar with “867-5309/Jenny,” and even that it’s sung by Tommy Tutone, which I could not have told you. He also uses “Police Truck” by Dead Kennedys well. I mean, yes, it’s gross for genuine political punk rock rebellion of the ‘80s to now be a nostalgic groove in a silly comedy made by a giant corporation. But also it works.
There’s obviously some meta intentions in the T2 references. Phoebe declares it “One of four sequels in cinematic history that supersedes the original.” We never get to hear what the other three are, and KILLER QUEEN sure won’t be added to the list. I get sick of that meta shit, but I like these characters talking about movies. She cites DELIVERANCE and the films of Rob Reiner as some of her favorites. The latter is a non sequitur and the former sets up her immediate fear at the sight of a banjo. I don’t like that John talks about himself as a character in a horror movie, and it’s especially tired to joke about the cliche of the Black character dying first, but I do like that he chalks up his survival to “post-Jordan Peele horror movie progress.”
I should mention the plot. Cole is still close to Melanie from across the street (Emily Alyn Lind, returning from the first movie, also played Shirley Temple in J. EDGAR). He’s clearly in love with her and she gives him every sign that she feels the same, except that she has a big bonehead boyfriend named Jimmy (Maximilian Acevedo). She invites Cole on a trip with friends to party on a boat, and he seems to be a fifth wheel, but in fact (SPOILER) they plan to sacrifice him because they found Bee’s satanic book and have resurrected her entire cult from Hell.
It seems mean to have Cole to have his other amazing female best friend also be evil and try to kill him. Shit. Luckily he’s able to escape with Phoebe, who has a jet ski. Together they clash with the various returning characters while heading for her family’s cabin, which has a whole new horror backstory of its own.
It’s kind of fun and also kind of limiting to see all the old characters back. Lots of callbacks. It seems to me there’s more comical riffing this time, but it’s largely successful. Ken Marino as Cole’s dad gets a funny subplot with Melanie’s stoner dad (Chris Wylde, SPACE COWBOYS). Leslie Bibb as Cole’s mom keeps calling and asking “Did you take pot?”
The jokes are fast and furious presents enough to forgive the ones that don’t land, but I was pretty thrown off by the convoluted bit that causes Cole to splash pee on Phoebe’s face. Mostly because she says “urine is sterile,” does not wipe it off and he’s kissing her about two minutes later. I don’t know what they were going for there but it took me a while to not be distracted by these people being so casual while covered in piss.
McG also goes admirably far with the cartoonish gore. You gotta respect a movie where somebody falls into a ravine and gets stuck between the sides like 127 HOURS and the good guys yank on her until her head pops off. There’s also a pretty great car-crashes-and-ejects-a-surfboard-that-beheads-somebody gag. And when a flashback needs to show loved ones dying in a car accident it’s an insane Jeep crash with bodies graphically flying out. The influence of 6 UNDERGROUND, I’m guessing.
And there’s also a disco dance number set to “Apache.” I expect that sort of thing from McG and I appreciate that.
One thing that might be good to know going in is that this seems to be the “I got way more famous after the first one came out” movie for Weaving. Her part is limited. You see little blips of her a couple times but she doesn’t really show up until the last act. The more they waited the more I thought, “Oh geez, are they gonna try to make Bee into a good guy at the end?” I’ll let you discover what exactly they do with her, except to say that I admire the attempt but don’t really buy it.
I guess I’ll also say this: Cole still has positive feelings toward Bee, which is alot to swallow when you go over everything that occurred in part 1,and also if you remember how long the two years between 12 and 14 are. But I decided I could accept it, because if you were that age and the hottest and coolest twentysomething you ever heard of genuinely enjoyed your company, you would have complicated feelings, even after she did a human sacrifice in front of you. Arguably.
Anyway, it’s fine. Second best of the series so far.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.