Thursday, September 10, 2020

On The Chopping Block: The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)

Let me give a quick preface: I discovered the original Babysitter pretty late in the game: Over a year after its original release on Netflix, in fact, via a recommendation from someone I met through social media. After watching the film, I instantly fell in love with it. It's not a perfect movie, but its Scream-esque mixture of horror tropes with meta humor and pop cultures, along with its choice of the charismatic Samara Weaving to play the titular role of antagonist babysitter Bee, won me over instantly. I even followed Bee and babysittee Cole's (Judah Lewis) lead and made my own "intergalactic dream team" of six Sci Fi characters I'd want to fight evil alongside, which I posted in my original Letterboxd review of the first movie here. So, obviously, when a sequel was announced with everybody coming back sans Weaving, I was intrigued, albeit cautiously. Would The Babysitter 2, or The Babysitter: Killer Queen as it's now titled, succeed?

Luckily, it actually does a fine job of living up to the original and my expectations. Taking place two years after the original, we follow an older Cole as he struggles to deal with the aftermath of what went down in the first film: His parents and school, minus his friend/crush from the original Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind), all think he's unhinged, and Bee and her followers have imprinted on him to the point where he's formed a friend group that's a subtle mirror of Bee and her group. Determined to get out of his comfort zone, Cole tags along with Melanie and their new friends Jimmy (Maximilian Acevedo), Diego (Juliocesar Chavez) and Boom Boom (Jennifer Foster) for a party on Jimmy's uncle's boat. After a round of two minutes in Heaven with Melanie, Cole is prodded by the others for details on what happened in the closet with Melanie. Then for details on what happened two years ago with Bee and her cult and then, well...

Shit hits the fan.

They're back: Andrew Bachelor, Bella Thorne & Robbie Amell as John, Allison and Max

Killer Queen takes what was laid out in its predecessor and escalates it: The scope is bigger and badder than the original, and director McG boosts the blood and gore and the pop culture references to new highs. In fact, one could make quite the drinking game out of how many times the sequel refers to its status as such via references to Terminator 2, both through the dialogue and through plot points. The returns of original cast members Robbie Amell, Andrew Bachelor, Hana Mae Lee and Bella Thorne as Bee's former followers are repeatedly likened to T2's antagonist T-1000, and Cole's new ally Phoebe (Jenna Ortega) is compared Sarah Connor more than once. The film also calls back to several jokes from the original and surges them, including the stupidity of Thorne's Alison, the clueless nature of Cole's parents (Ken Marino & Leslie Bibb), and the objectification of Amell's Max. A lot of this actually works and results in some memorable scenes, with examples being Max being shown so perpetually shirtless that a flashback shows him getting chewed out by a Karen for working at a fast food joint without a shirt on and Bachelor's John celebrating his surviving more of the sequel than the original as "some progressive Jordan Peele shit."  

However, not everything about Killer Queen works: Too much time is devoted to an ultimately useless subplot revolving around Cole's father and Melanie's father (Chris Wylde) trying to track down their kids to the point where I suspect the crew just wanted to give Marino more to do than in the original. The subplot of Cole and Phoebe's burgeoning romance also doesn't work as well as it should: While Lewis and Ortega have chemistry, the film seems to think that the multiple scenes of the two dancing and making time to Sugarhill Gang's "Jump On It" is a lot funnier than it actually is. In addition to this, the twist of Melanie as the new Big Bad and Bee's replacement falls flat for me, especially since her explanation of her motivation is reduced to a single line about wanting to be an influencer that doesn't land (as do a lot of the 2020-specific pop culture jokes, including a Tiger King namedropping from Cole's mom that made me cringe). While I do enjoy Lind as an actor, Melanie ultimately fails to live up to Weaving's Bee, and, along with the other new villains, gets overshadowed by those returning from the original (Especially Amell, whose character I could legitimately watch an entire movie about.)

In the end, though, The Babysitter: Killer Queen is a fine sequel and worth a watch, especially if you were a fan of the original 2017 film. Despite its flaws, there's still lots of laughs to be had, violent and bloody deaths and fights to be witnessed and, if the ending is anything to go by, potentially more story on the horizon.

The stars of The Babysitter: Killer Queen

Oh, and one more thing: For the tl;dr crowd who just wants to know if Weaving really doesn't return: She does indeed make a return, and with more time on screen than I anticipated.

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