By. Isaac Thorne
Growing up is hard for Cole in Netflix’s The Babysitter
There's an old analogy that equates opinions with assholes: everybody has one; unless you were born with an imperforate anus, of course. Old adages can't account for every single possibility. Nevertheless, you get the point. Another person's opinion on any given topic only has the value you, the listener or reader, give it. This advice is never more accurate than when you're a nerdy, fearful adolescent male struggling with what it means to be a man.
Witness Cole (Judah Lewis), the geeky science fiction-loving 12-year-old fraidy boy who is the protagonist of director McG’s horror comedy The Babysitter (2017, Netflix). When we first meet Cole, he has spent a full 10 minutes fighting a flu shot because he hates needles. Then he gets hit in the head with a basketball and called a pussy, gets bullied by a trio of slightly older baddies, and expresses his fearfulness of bugs to his mother who is setting mousetraps in the crawlspace of their somewhat sinister-looking home.
Everyone and I mean everyone, thinks Cole is a wimp, including his parents. And they all want to parent him. Cole's mother and father parent him by protecting him from household objects, and by hiring babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving), even though everyone Cole encounters agrees that his far too old to have a babysitter. Cole’s bullies, teachers, and the parents of his only school friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) only want him to toughen up and stop being so afraid of everything.
Other than Melanie, Cole's only confidant is Bee, who manages to treat him more like an adult than her ward. She seems to share his nerdy interests, even going so far as to tell him about her intergalactic dream team, and accepts him for who he is. She's also capable of protecting him from his trio of bullies by merely whispering in the primary baddie's ear. The bonding moments between Bee and Cole in the first act of the film are both funny and touching. As a viewer, you genuinely feel like Bee cares about Cole and that babysitting him isn't just a job for her. Cole, being a 12-year-old boy with a hot babysitter, has developed slightly more profound and more confusing feelings for her, which he makes a concerted effort to hide from her for fear that she will be angry with him.
As he explores his feelings, Cole confides in Melanie, who informs him that his babysitter is probably just humoring him to tire him out so she can invite her boyfriend over when he goes to sleep. Cole then becomes determined to stay awake the next time Bee babysits him so he can watch what happens after he goes to bed. It is at this point that things take a turn from sweet to sinister.
Cole creeps to the top of his stairs after his bedtime and sees a group of teens playing Spin-the-Bottle with Bee. The assembly includes the school quarterback Max (Robbie Amell), the cheerleader Allison (Bella Thorne; no relation to your humble reviewer), Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), John (Andrew Bachelor), and Samuel (Doug Haley). The bottle lands on Bee, who is dared to kiss every other teen in the room. Without spoiling things too much, the night goes downhill from there. Cole discovers that Bee and the other teens are involved in a Satanic cult that is performing a ritual that requires the blood of a sacrifice and the blood of an innocent. The point of the ceremony: the teens are guaranteed to get what they want. As he tries to escape his own home, Cole is captured by the group and makes it his duty to put a stop to their demonic practices.
The Babysitter is funny, fun, gory, and pleasantly surprising. The special effects are purposefully over-the-top. All of the actors are wonderful, and each of them seems to know what type of film it is they're making. There's something in this movie for everyone, even when it comes to the eye candy (folks who like women will enjoy watching Weaving while people who like men are more likely to pay attention to Amell's mostly shirtless scenes). The script is tight as well. There isn’t a section of this film that you can walk away from and make a sandwich without missing something. Nothing is throw-away.
All that said, this film is more than just a pure horror comedy: it has a message. Growing up is hard to do, and not only for Cole. All of the characters in The Babysitter who want to force Cole to grow up have some form of growing up to do on their own. The most obvious of these is Amell’s Max, who at one point is attempting to chase Cole down and kill him while simultaneously giving him advice on how to stand up for himself and face down a bully.
The film's primary message, though, is that growing up is something that is unique for everyone. When it happens, it's not because of the advice that was given to you by your parents, your friends, your babysitter, or your friend's parents. It's because you decide it's time.