The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)
This was shaping up to be a pretty good year for Brian Duffield. In my Underwater (2020) review, I wasn't exactly subtle about my love for his work. Spontaneous (2020), his directorial debut, is coming out later this year, and apparently also Love and Monsters (2020), which was rewritten from his Monster Problems script, (possibly my favourite script). It will no doubt suck, but at least he got paid, so good for him.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the sequel to The Babysitter (2017) dropped on Netflix this weekend, and hell yeah, I was excited. Sure, The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) wasn’t written by Duffield himself, but the script ended with a fun scene for the sequel, so clearly there’s room there, and it was such a fun concept, how badly could they screw it up?
Pretty badly it would seem.
Rather than following the eponymous babysitter, Bee, and her disappearance after the first movie, they decided to focus on the babysat, Cole, dealing with the fallout of believing he was almost murdered by his babysitter for a bloodcult. So, rather than doing anything new, they play out similar beats from the opening of the first film, with the same characters, in similar situations. The nurse from the first movie who had to talk him into his flu shot is now the school counselor, who has to talk him into getting laid, because he’s crazy. But he’s also the nurse, and he’s got to have his flu shot again, because we apparently don’t want to stray too far from what the first film did. But, don’t worry, it’s not all the same, because now there are even more annoying friend characters to hang out with, rather than the bullies from the first one. So, that’s different, and definitely fun and not completely grating.
Pictured: Either a poorly written returning character, or too much improv.
Okay, so the plot isn’t exactly the same. One of the best things I can say about it is that the trailer doesn't tell you everything. There are a few twists and turns that are genuine surprises, but some of them are genuine surprises because they genuinely don’t make sense when it comes to character motivation. The first movie works because we don’t know much about Bee (except for a few scenes showing her bond with Cole). So yeah, we are shocked when she stabs a guy in the head, but we only know a single slice of her life. Now, we’re following characters that we’ve known for more than one movie; people we’ve seen in vulnerable positions. When these characters start having turns, their motivation seems nothing more than “writer needs to make plot happen”.
Brian Duffield is a master of subtle but noticeable and effective set up and pay off, whereas this one is like, “Hey, look at this weirdly specific thing (a bunny rabbit with a sinister note and a key), this will pay off later”… and hey, guess what… the key opens a thing… and the note tells you a thing… freaking geniuses at work here! The film has one moment that wasn’t a noticeable set up, that paid off in the smallest of ways, but I had to explain it to my wife after it happened, so maybe it was too subtle.
Also, the resolution is the exact same as the resolution in Once Bitten (1985). If you’re stealing your final plot point from an admittedly terrible Jim Carrey film, you’re not doing well.
Pictured: Of all the things to steal from Once Bitten (1985), you didn't steal this dance move?
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a film that so openly hated millennials more than The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020).
Like sure, in the first movie, they do have cool old movie references and Cole and Bee both seem wise beyond their years. Meanwhile, all the bad guys are vapid, self-obsessed teens who want to shortcut their way to greatness via bloodcult. However, it doesn’t feel aggressive because we don’t know anything about these characters other than how vapid they are. The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) continues to drive just how vapid those original characters are with some VHS flashback sequences, but now we have other characters who appear not vapid, and guess what? They’re also vapid and self obsessed! Some of these characters seem like genuine people in the first movie, but nope, they’re also self obsessed because they’re wannabe influencer millennials, as one character triumphantly tells us….
Pictured: Bloody millennials.
… Except they’re all teenagers… in 2020… Sure, some of them died two years prior, but they were teens two years ago, which means… all of these people are Gen Z…
Is the film being deliberately obtuse?
I wish I could say that, except the whole message of the film is how these damn millennials are trying to cheat their way to greatness, rather than earning it with hard work. The film tells you this. Twice. In monologue. With the second time including a flashback to the first time.
The whole reason I was actually still excited for The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) is because it's the same director: McG. Now, you may know him from his super fun work on Charlie’s Angels (2000) or his super bland work on Terminator Salvation (2009) or, most likely, from his work directing all of the best music videos with the greatest band of the 90s and 00s: Smash Mouth.
Pictured: Cinematic genius.
Smash Mouth aside, I didn’t really like him until The Babysitter (2017). My change of heart occurred mainly because of how well he seemed to capture the tone of one of the most fun scripts I’ve ever read (admittedly, after watching the film). He nailed it. And knowing how well he worked in that tone, I thought, “Hey, he’s still got it, baby,” because somehow I forgot he also did Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003).
A lot of people don’t like The Babysitter (2017) because it very much feels like style over substance, and frankly, it is. I’m not here to argue that. The style is so good though, it elevates the substance, and now we’re cooking with oil! That style is still arguably present in Killer Queen (2020), even if some of it is literally the exact same style. That style is still good, even if it is repetitive. There are a few great moments of visual story telling with colour that are new; in particular, when Cole decides to skip school.
The problem is, there’s no substance to elevate. And I already saw most of this, the last time. So why don’t I just watch the first movie?
This movie is trying so hard. I can’t fault it there. It wants to be a Brian Duffield script so bad, and that’s commendable. But it’s not.
Like really, why didn’t they just hire him? Was there something wrong? I know he’s always said that no one has ever adapted one of his scripts faithfully, and that’s fair. Maybe McG was not happy with that? But Goddamn it, why didn’t they just get him to write this sequel? It was just so lacking.
There are about three fun moments in the film that feel like genuine fun. This includes a moment where Cole pees on his love interest's face. That’s how low the bar is.
If you liked the first one, there’s a chance you might like this one. It hits the same beats, but changes slightly, so if you liked The Hangover Part II (2011) as well, maybe this one is for you. If you didn’t like the first one, this is trying to be even more, so you probably won’t like it even more.
Pictured: She literally just got peed on 10/10 great movie.
Also, what the hell is with the title? It's like "Ah, you see, it's called Killer Queen because when we finally see the babysitter in the final scene, Killer Queen by Queen plays... We are so clever".
Now I have even less hope for Love and Monsters (2020 or probably 2021, let’s face it). And not just because they changed the name to the worst Doctor Who episode.