'The Babysitter' or 'Happy Death Day': Which Horror Flick to Watch This Friday the 13th
By John Boone
Netflix / Universal Pictures
Think of it as a Choose Your Own Adventure, but your only options are dying in a slasher or at the hands of a Satanic cult. All Hallows' Eve means ghouls and goblins, vampires and probably more Stranger Things kids this year, right? It’s also prime time for regulation hotties to try to survive a horror movie. And this Friday the 13th, you have two to choose from: The Babysitter and Happy Death Day, both out now.
For the Netflix and chills crowd, there's The Babysitter, which landed on the streaming platform at the stroke of midnight. The titular sitter is Bee (played by Aussie Samara Weaving), a Daisy Dukes-wearing, Star Trek-loving Manic Pixie Dream Senior. It's no wonder her charge, 12-year-old Cole (Judah Lewis), is hopelessly in love with her.
Bee also, y'know, dabbles in the occult and has a small deal with the devil, which Cole learns when he stays up past his bedtime and watches as Bee and a cult of high school stereotypes -- Bella Thorne as the cheerleader, Robbie Amell as the quarterback, as well as Pitch Perfect’s Hana Mae Lee and Andrew "King Bach" Bachelor, who's a hoot -- drink shooters, play spin the bottle and human sacrifice the school nerd. It's a wild-ly fun premise with a solid cast and clever script (by Insurgent screenwriter Brian Duffield), but the movie gets in its own way.
Director McG introduced my screening by saying* (*yelling) that it is "A STRANGE LITTLE MOVIE." And it is...puzzling. It's like The Babysitter bought Adderall off a sophomore and snorted it, with McG making, to be blunt, insane choices -- why are there tarantulas in a crawl space? Why does Cole practice driving at a NASCAR track? -- and never explaining why. It is a movie that thinks more is more when the setup is enough. It needs less music cues! Less words onscreen! Less POV shots, less camera filters, less slow-mo girl-on-girl tongue kissing. (Horny teen boys aren’t the only ones who binge watch.) Still, there are worse ways to spend 80-something minutes. (Especially at home, where you can drink your own, free alcohol.)
If you've got some dollars to throw around, though, I supposed I'd opt for heading to the cinema to see Happy Death Day. Chanel Oberlin from Scream Queens died -- or, was canceled -- so that Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe, one of the La La Land roomies who just wanted Emma Stone to put on a monochromatic dress and go to the damn party, already) could live and die and die and die and die.
Tree risks being a stock beyotchy sorority girl, but Rothe is not only great at the inevitable screaming but quite a comedian, too. (Dare I say, the one-liners -- "I missed breakfast." "What is breakfast, Becky?" -- aren't as GIF-worthy as most things Ryan Murphy comes up with.) On the eve of her birthday, Tree is stabbed to death by a baby mask-wearing killer, only to wake up and live and then die the same day all over again. And again. Happy Death Day is Scream meets Groundhog Day, as Tree attempts to figure out who keeps killing her: The jilted one-night stand? The overbearing roomie? The toxic sorority sister?
(I do want to back up and draw your attention to the fact that the killer wears a baby mask because the college’s mascot is a baby. They are the Bayfield Babies, and we’re meant to be like, "Sure. I buy that." I love it.)
If The Babysitter glorifies in gore, this one deals in suspense. Hailing from the Blumhouse horror factory and directed by Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), Happy Death Day touches down on the tropes you’d expect and want from a movie like this -- opaque shower curtains and empty parking garages and co-eds attempting to outrun a killer in heels -- which means plenty of opportunities to resist shouting out, "Don’t go in there, ya dummy!" in your theater. There's a stretch of the film that nearly ruins the entire thing, but ride it out to the end and I promise it's a good, dumb, funny, scary time.