We all have shameful confessions. Maybe you’ve only heard two Beatles songs, or maybe you didn’t stop wetting the bed until you were well past the age of adolescence. I’m not saying either of these examples pertain to the writer of this article, so slow your roll. If you must know, my own personal shameful confession, at least the one that relates the most to this piece, is that I was not a big fan of The Babysitter. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I downright can’t stand the thing.
The Babysitter, directed by McG and released exclusively on Netflix in 2017, is described by the streaming service as a “teen comedy horror.” That description is likely exactly how it sounds in your head, a horror comedy full of pop culture references and wacky, relatable one-liners for the average budding horror fan to grasp onto. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t really get into it. I mean, I’m not exactly a person of a considerably high age, but at least to your average teenager, I’m definitely closer to the “How do you do fellow kids?” age than they are.
The Babysitter highly disappointed me when I first saw it. Its sporadic mix of flashy editing, awful dialogue, and cheap jokes made by social media influencers clearly only there to draw in a younger crowd just wasn’t for me. The only thing it had going for it was the gratuitous amount of gore, which…yeah, it’s bloody all right. I remember thinking there was no chance in hell this movie would go far. So you could imagine my surprise when I found out the movie did in fact go pretty far, straight into cult-favorite status for a lot of people.
Now, this isn’t my way of harping on the movie and its fans. If you love this movie, then more power to you.Honestly, I wanted to like The Babysitter. It looks fun and stylized, and it’s directed by the executive producer of Supernatural, a show I love to this day, which is an opinion that definitely gets me some looks, especially when I tell them how much I love the later seasons.
The point is, I don’t want to hate this movie. And furthermore, I want to understand why so many people love it. I tried rewatching it again and again, and while I admit that each rewatch after the first wasn’t as bad, it still wasn’t exactly an enjoyable experience. I was just about ready to give up on this pointless experiment that nobody asked for, when all of a sudden, a light appeared from the sky. Well, all right, maybe not the sky, more like my phone screen lit up. It was a notification that Netflix had a brand new horror comedy to view.
The Babysitter: Killer Queen, directed by McG and starring pretty much the exact same cast as the first film, was released exclusively on Netflix earlier this month and is described by the service as a “teen comedy horror…sequel.” Thanks to the sequel’s release, the original went from a cult-favorite film to the first in a cult-favorite franchise. Much like the majority of its cast and crew, The Babysitter: Killer Queen is more of the same kind of material we got from the first movie. Yet, for whatever reason, I enjoyed this one a lot more.
Without getting too much into the plot, Killer Queen follows a young boy named Cole (Judah Lewis) who finds himself in the crosshairs of a sadistic and murderous group of his peers who are all part of a satanic cult promising to make their wildest dreams come true. That’s pretty much the plot of the first film, as well. The only difference this time around is that Cole is older and has prior experience facing this creepy cult. Oh, and there’s plenty more gore.
To be fair, Killer Queen also plays heavier into the supernatural aspect of the cult than its predecessor, though that isn’t really what sold me. I honestly wasn’t sure at first why I liked the sequel more than the original. After all, everything I didn’t like about the first one is still front and center in Killer Queen.
The acting is still over-the-top and mostly improv. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it allows for a lot of hit-or-miss dialogue, and most of the time, it was a miss for me in both films. The sequel also shares the original’s unique editing style, one I can only describe as “MTV meets Edgar Wright.” These two very different things were clearly the influences, especially the MTV one considering that McG used to direct music videos before transitioning to film with Charlie’s Angels in 2002.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with this style. I love the kind of flashy, fast-paced editing done masterfully by directors like Edgar Wright, but The Babysitter and Killer Queen made me realize there is such a thing as too stylized. Too often, there are scenes in the sequel that completely disrupt the tone established in the previous scene for the sake of a random visual gag, which is unlikely to pay off.
There are a few reasons why I like this sequel more than the original, despite their similarities. One reason is that in spite of all its flaws, Killer Queen is a positively charming movie. The cast genuinely appears to be having fun in a way I didn’t see as much when I watched the first movie. It was there, but the sequel seems to have amplified it. I think what McG and the crew were going for here was a movie that a lot of younger viewers could find relatable. And for what it’s worth, they didn’t necessarily fail at this.
Another reason is that the film manages to get its main point across far better than the first. Both The Babysitter and Killer Queen try to warn against the dangers of following the status quo, using the demon cult as an allegory for doing whatever it takes to be one of the “cool kids.” The sequel does this in a way that shows us — and Cole — that anyone can fall folly to the dark side of popularity, even the people you think are your closest friends. It’s a lesson that many movies try to teach young viewers: never change for anyone else. But Killer Queen really gets it right by putting us in the mind of Cole, who refuses to change who he is or what he knows is right just to appease his peers.
The last reason isn’t as satisfying as the previous two, but it could very well be the big one. The movie and its wacky cast of returning characters may have just grown on me. This theory didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first. Even though I enjoyed the sequel after one watch, I still didn’t like the first one after several rewatches. But upon watching The Babysitter one more time after watching Killer Queen, I actually found that I liked it a lot more this time around. Not more than the sequel, but definitely more than my initial opinion of the first film.
That’s because for every objectively bad thing these films have in common, they also share a lot of objectively good things. There’s still that same kind of charm and relatability, as well as the film’s main point shining through the metaphors. Judah Lewis is still an incredible lead actor, and both films did get some legitimate laughs out of me. There’s even an argument to be made that the first film is better because it has much more Samara Weaving in it, which in any other case would make that my movie of the year.
Still, Killer Queen is the better film. It has huge, glaring flaws like its predecessor, but it also takes the things I liked about the first movie and kicks them up a couple notches. I still don’t fully understand why this movie is as fun as it is in spite of itself, but it really is. It takes the idea of “relatable teen horror” and runs a mile with it. I don’t know if either film is really for me, or if I’ll ever feel the need to revisit Killer Queen, but I do think it’s a Netflix movie any young horror fan should see at least once.
It’s widely assumed that the genre is for a specific kind of viewer, when that isn’t true at all. I wish I had gotten into horror as a kid, as there is a lot of great stuff for everyone in there among the wreckage, just like in any other genre. Mixing teenage drama and relatable issues with familiar and bloody horror tropes in the way that Killer Queen (and its predecessor) does is a good way to eliminate that stigma. So while it isn’t a perfect movie, this Netflix “teen horror comedy” definitely helped me understand why it and the film before it have such a huge fan following.
The Babysitter and The Babysitter: Killer Queen are both available to stream exclusively on Netflix.