The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)
Screenwriters: McG, Dan Lagana, Brad Morris, Jimmy Warden
Starring: Judah Lewis, Emily Alyn Lind, Samara Weaving, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, Andrew Bachelor
When it comes to Netflix original content, it can be hit or miss, with the streaming giant hoovering up so much of the festival landscape that it can more often be the latter. One example of a Netflix Original that was a certified hit is 2017’s The Babysitter, from Terminator Salvation director McG. Following years of both critical and commercial failure in feature films, McG finally made a comeback of sorts with The Babysitter, his biggest critical success since the first Charlie’s Angels movie in 2000. Although mostly praised by critics and fans alike, The Babysitter seemed to come and go pretty quietly, making it something of an immediate cult classic. With the release of The Babysitter: Killer Queen on September 10th 2020, this sequel three years in the making acts as the proving ground for whether McG simply got lucky with its predecessor or if he is a filmmaker genuinely capable of catching lightning in a bottle.
Set two years after the events of the first film, lead protagonist Cole (Judah Lewis) still struggles with what happened on the night of the events of the original film. No one believes him and everyone thinks he is crazy, especially his parents who have plans to enroll Cole into a psychiatric ward. Being his best friend, and the only other person who was there that night, Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) convinces Cole to join her and her friends for a weekend long beach party. It is there that Cole’s worst fears are brought back to life.
The entire lead cast of the first movie return for the sequel: Judah Lewis and Emily Alyn Lind as best friends Cole and Melanie; Ken Marino and Leslie Bibb as Cole’s parents; Chris Wylde as Melanie’s father; and, of course, Samara Weaving, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell and Andrew Bachelor as the members of the demonic cult who had tried to kill Cole two years prior. The returning cast members look to be having fun in their old characters, and the script even delves deeper into each of their pasts, giving us a more intimate understanding of the characters and their actions.
Having the same cast members from the first movie (even those who died in the first installment) is not the only similarity that Killer Queen shares with its predecessor, both in the best and worst ways. On the one hand, the returning cast members and the similar story can come across as lazy and as “playing it safe”. Although the film certainly does pay homage to itself (in some ways more subtle than others), Killer Queen is predominantly a fresh take on a familiar story.
Killer Queen is jam-packed with throwbacks to the first film – dialogue, certain shots/edits and even the structure of the story echo the 2017 release. It has its blunders, such as repeated jokes from the first movie that don’t work a second time around and certain characters being given more screen time, but more often than not the team on this sequel hit the mark. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is a small piece of set dressing from the first film being used to further develop Cole’s character this time around.
As for the film’s attempts to be original, this is best displayed through a new addition to the cast in Jenna Ortega’s Phoebe Atwell. Although she is not the only new character in the film (Juliocesar Chavez as Diego and Jennifer Foster as Boom Boom prove to be underwhelming new additions, though Maximilian Acevedo as Jimmy has his moments), she is by far the best. She has a rough start but soon becomes arguably the strongest aspect of the entire movie, the mystery behind her childhood adding fresh intrigue to the narrative.
Whereas the first film took place almost entirely in Cole’s house, Killer Queen takes place out in the open (at a lake). Whilst it certainly is a new direction, and does allow for some gnarly kills, the setting is incredibly dull, offering very little to the look of the film or the scares, and relying too heavily on the tropes of lake settings in horror. The boring imagery that the setting creates also brings attention to the terrible green screen and CGI effects, sparsely used as they are, and the total lack in atmosphere almost completely dampens any effect The Babysitter: Killer Queen might have as a horror movie, coming across much more like an action flick, which is certainly more McG’s usual wheelhouse. This is less a horror sequel, and more a horror-by-association.
Sequels are infamously difficult to get right, the pressure that comes with trying to hurdle the high bar of the previous film/films often proving tough, with many believing that only a few sequels ever pass their predecessor (something that this movie itself even states). The Babysitter: Killer Queen is no exception to this rule, but it does a fine enough job. Bringing just the right amount of originality whilst still paying homage to what made a sequel possible in the first place, The Babysitter: Killer Queen is far from a disaster. It has its issues, but this is a fun 2nd installment that fans of the original will likely enjoy; a release McG will be able to hang his hat on as proof of his re-emerging talent.