Oh McG, McG, McG. One of the more interesting personalities in filmmaking, and it’s not just because he’s a movie director with a music video director name. McG started his career off with the absurd, hyper-realistic Charlie’s Angels (2000). That film was carried by its star power at the box office, along with a dose of brand awareness. But McG’s fingerprints are all over the production; a tongue-in-cheek approach towards seemingly life-or-death stakes, characters behaving abnormally to what is considered socially acceptable, and a slew of weird villains with weird quirks.
It seems not much has changed in 20 years, with the existence of The Babysitter: Killer Queen. A sequel to the moderately received The Babysitter (2017), both being Netflix productions, Killer Queen has not been as well-received as its predecessor and for good reason. Everything that made the original a charming film is doubled down upon in Killer Queen, to obnoxious degrees.
Our story starts a few years after the original, when Cole (Judah Lewis) survived a hellacious night with his babysitter-turned-psycho-killer, Bee (Samara Weaving), and her group of satanic friends. But, naturally, no one believes Cole’s story of witchcraft and magical powers, prompting his parents to force him to take therapy sessions. He feels like an outsider to his peers due to his strange history, and his only friend (read: love interest) appears to be his classmate Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind). However, when he joins his high school classmates on a getaway trip, he hopes it’ll be the unwinding he needs to make high school feel normal.
However, this hope is very short-lived when he’s trapped by Bee’s friends from the first film. They’re somehow back from the dead, with a new leader but the same goal – use Cole as a blood sacrifice for a ritual that will grant them their most desired wishes. As the plot is laid out, the film becomes increasingly tensionless.
For starters, can we put a 10-year ban on the “blood sacrifice for immortality/other” subplot? Not only is it a complete retread of the first film, but it was also done in the season finale of Lovecraft Country. Here we are again, with the same goofball villains telling the same jokes about themselves or each other, for diminishing degrees. We get it, Allison (Bella Thorne) is promiscuous and Max (Robbie Amell) likes to take his shirt off.
There’s also the issue of bringing these characters back to life, lessening the impact of the original and putting a damper on the stakes in the sequel. It’s hard to get invested in the plot when anyone can be resurrected in the next one. It doesn’t help that none of the violence is actually funny. The bloodshed comes off as Looney Tunes carnage, as characters are hacked up but then appear whole again a few scenes later, but without the clever writing. Characters are chopped up, limbs are cut off, people are run over, and none of it matters because it doesn’t change the plot so much as prolong it until the eventual climax.
Another chief problem is a lack of wit in the screenplay’s humor. It’s not like the original was Shakespeare, but that film played with expectations about a movie centering around a kid and his affinity for his attractive babysitter, using its humor to upend that setup. However, since Cole is in high school, there are no preteen expectations to subvert; Cole is old enough where it’s no longer funny to see him in these hyper-violent or hypersexual situations. But the movie tries anyway, going for even more over the top violence and falling back on forced pop culture references whenever possible. At one point, someone remarks, “First Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner broke up, and now this?” Which begs the question, who are these jokes for? They’re so on the nose and blandly delivered, I imagine the target audience will roll their eyes at them.
There’s one saving grace, and that is the introduction of Phoebe (Jenna Ortega, a star in the making). She’s first introduced as a mysterious new student at Cole’s school, but a much more interesting and entertaining character than the archetype she originally inhabits. The chemistry between Ortega and Lewis is strong, and the movie is noticeably better once they start interacting. Their stories intertwine, leading to a climax that is at once seemingly inevitable while harkening back to the key ingredient that made the original work.
What doesn’t work is simply re-doing the original without all of the most important characters. No, Allison, John, and shirtless Max aren’t what made the first movie a fun horror fun. Ultimately, it was the relationship between Cole and his babysitter (I mean, it’s in the title). Killer Queen, by way of both Phoebe and a touching ending, eventually realizes what matters. But it’s too little too late, as the film spends too much time with a tired formula instead of moving the story forward.
However, the second half of the film gives hints that McG and the screenwriters knew what this sequel should have been all along. Thus, this hodgepodge of a film adds to the enigma that is McG; his movies come across as if they’re made by a generic journeyman, BUT ALSO has his signature all over it. This is the same man who made the preposterous Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), but also the tamest and safest Terminator film ever in Terminator Salvation (2009). He’s an enigma, mixed in a riddle, and locked in a puzzle. And somehow, The Babysitter are perfectly representative of his weird filmography, both the good and bad.