Writer: Dan Lagana, Brad Morris, Jimmy Warden, McG
Producer: McG, Mary Viola, Zack Schiller
Stars: Judah Lewis, Emily Alyn Lind, Jenna Ortega, Robbie Amell, Andrew Bachelor, Leslie Bibb, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Samara Weaving, Ken Marino
Two years after foiling his satanic babysitter¡¯s murderous plans, teenager Cole stumbles into another unusual cult conspiracy.
There weren¡¯t too many middle ground opinions on ¡°The Babysitter¡± (review here). Between its attractive actors and sensationalized splatter, it was a project produced to be hyper-stylized eye candy, like a distant cousin to Zack Snyder¡¯s ¡°Sucker Punch¡± without the VFX blitzkrieg. Viewers were either won over by the spitfire snark and snappy cinematicism or were turned off by the breeziness behind it all. I personally admired the movie¡¯s manic hum, even if the film¡¯s flightiness still made for an ¡°in one ear and immediately out the other¡± evening of evaporating entertainment.
¡°The Babysitter: Killer Queen¡± reminded me how forgettable the first film was when I sat down to watch the sequel and realized I remembered nearly none of the original. Samara Weaving was the titular babysitter. That much I knew. I think there was a cult of some kind somewhere. Was Weaving protecting a kid from it or was she in on the conspiracy? With ¡°Better Watch Out¡± (review here), ¡°Satanic Panic¡± (review here), and other movies about kooky cults or gonzo babysitting gigs cluttering up my recall in the interim, I have a hard time differentiating between similar setups. I believe (hope) my brain reserves that room for more important matters.
Enough bits of ¡°The Babysitter¡± came back to me during ¡°Killer Queen¡± that the overall haziness never really mattered. Plus quick clips cut in for ¡°oh yeah, that happened¡± flashbacks to fill in various blanks as needed. Besides, since ¡°Killer Queen¡± brings back virtually every character from the first film, including five who definitively died, it¡¯s not like keeping previous events straight is a priority for anyone. ¡°Killer Queen¡± may follow ¡°The Babysitter,¡± but it also follows its own whims with a devil may care attitude that eschews continuity in favor of even more fantasized frivolity.
Never mind plot consistency anyway. ¡°Killer Queen¡¯s¡± more critical carryover from ¡°The Babysitter¡± is a charmingly chipper cast that molds each moment to be as fun as feasible. It¡¯s irrelevant if they¡¯re onscreen for ten minutes or ten seconds. From Chris Wylde¡¯s supporting performance as a dope-smoking dope of a dad to Olabisi Kovabel¡¯s single scene as an OCD teen who thinks her uterus will explode if she steps on a crack, everyone is game to get goofy, gory, or both.
Judah Lewis capably carries so much of the load in a beefed-up role for returning character Cole (the babysittee from before), he almost made me stop thinking about how much he looks like Charlie Heaton from ¡°Stranger Things.¡± Bella Thorne shows a surprising cheekiness to be semi-self-effacing by basically playing a parody of how her usual persona is popularly perceived. Ken Marino pulls a Bob Saget by sheathing enough of his ¡°Veronica Mars¡±-honed huckster shtick to pull off being a sweetly sympathetic father at the same time. (And kudos to his contract for landing the ¡°and¡± credit over Samara Weaving.)
Unquestionably the best thing to come out of ¡°The Babysitter: Killer Queen¡± is Emily Alyn Lind¡¯s emergence as a star on the rise. To be honest, I barely remember Lind as Cole¡¯s crush Melanie from the first film, an expanded role she reprises here. I¡¯ve also apparently seen her over the years in genre fare such as ¡°The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia¡± (review here) and ¡°Mockingbird¡± (review here) and don¡¯t remember her in those movies either. (To be fair, she was like 10 years old when she filmed those.)
I did take note of Lind as Snakebite Andi in ¡°Doctor Sleep¡± (review here) however, and her turn in ¡°Killer Queen¡± convinces me she¡¯s only one break away from headlining her own horror film. Yes, she has a face fit for drawing eyes to the screen. More importantly and less superficially, she has the presence to keep eyes magnetized there.
Lind smoothly sets up Melanie to be a plainly personable good girl. Then she peppers in a series of spices to add flavors of manipulative deceit, sarcastic savagery, and anything else a specific moment mandates. With three dozen credits already under her belt before entering adulthood, it appears Emily Alyn Lind may have made her own Guy Woodhouse-inspired deal with the devil to make a major career leap. I expect to see much more of Lind sooner rather than later.
Seeing as I referenced a 1968 movie in the previous paragraph, I may as well mention that was also the year director McG was born. Being ¡°of a certain age¡± myself (but born a decade later), I don¡¯t feel too bad being ageist about what I will say next. Love him, like him, or loathe him, McG knows how to make slick commercial movies. But with ¡°Killer Queen¡± being centered on, and at least partly targeted toward, ¡°a collection of attention-seeking social media millennials with esteem issues,¡± maybe McG doesn¡¯t belong to the best generation for tackling such topics, even in satire.
¡°Killer Queen¡± includes gags you¡¯d expect given the preceding sentence¡¯s parenthesized words. Trying to light a fire under her comrades, Bella Thorne tells them, ¡°Tick-tock teenie weenies, let¡¯s go!¡± The shirtless jock asks, ¡°You want us to film this?¡± Thorne has to clarify, ¡°Not the app! Like a clock!¡± It¡¯s more amusing in the moment, but yeah, there are lines like this that will be awfully dated in a few years time.
Speaking of dated, one weird thing about ¡°Killer Queen¡¯s¡± humor has to do with its mish-mash of pop culture. Four different credited writers could be one culprit. Even though there are modern nods to Bear Grylls and Instagram, ¡°Killer Queen¡± also makes references to Forrest Gump and Tommy Tutone. I appreciate an unofficial Large Marge ¡°cameo¡± as much as any Pee-wee Herman fan. But while I question the evergreen nature of ¡°Street Fighter¡± and ¡°Terminator 2¡± far less, I wonder if it isn¡¯t wiser to narrow appeal to one era¡¯s trends instead of mixing a stew that could confuse anyone under the age of 30.
¡°The Babysitter: Killer Queen¡± is pretty much on par with the first film. Jokes fly fast. Some earn laughs. Others don¡¯t. Based on suspicious stutters and apparent fumbling for something funny to say, I¡¯m also 99% certain most of the adult actors improvise their dialogue to varying degrees of success. The movie¡¯s sense of humor ultimately either synchs with your speed or it doesn¡¯t, which means like ¡°The Babysitter,¡± your opinion will lean in one clear direction and likely mimic whatever you felt the first time around.
¡°Killer Queen¡± manages to sustain a lot of ¡°The Babysitter¡¯s¡± energy, but I doubt it has legs to last for a third lap. McG¡¯s music video approach to moviemaking stays in full swing, although his techniques of sudden slow-downs, abrupt edits, and flashy graphic overlays have had their edge significantly worn by age. If McG isn¡¯t getting too old for this, I might be. Considering I didn¡¯t do well with just one, I¡¯m not optimistic my memory has the willingness to set aside additional space for further films in ¡°The Babysitter¡± series.
NOTE: There is a mid-credits stinger.
Review Score: 70