By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Judah Lewis, Emily Alyn Lind and Jenna Ortega
Directed by McG
Written by Dan Lagana, Brad Morris, Jimmy Warden and McG
Two years ago in movie time and three years ago in release time, after Cole Johnson (Judah Lewis) defeated the title character of THE BABYSITTER and her demon-cultist followers, he said, “I don’t need a babysitter anymore.” Apparently, neither did the makers of THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN, including returning director McG, as the sequel’s scenario barely involves a child-carer. It doesn’t really have anything to do with a killer queen either, slapping on that subtitle as an excuse to play the Freddie Mercury hit over a key scene.
Not that the movie ever needs a reason for such a needle-drop; it is positively slathered with gratuitous, random pop songs on the soundtrack and incessant movie/music namechecks in the dialogue. In the present day, no one believes the stories that Cole, now a high-school junior, has told about what happened that horrible night, leading him to lament, “I feel like Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR 2.”
If only. Later on, someone says of that James Cameron blockbuster, “It’s one of the four sequels in cinematic history that supersedes the original,” which is exactly not the kind of line a sequel like this one should contain. The original BABYSITTER was no great shakes, but at least it had the great Samara Weaving as its lead villainess and a fairly focused storyline. THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN, which had no less than four screenwriters including McG, clearly strains to come up with a reasonable follow-up, mostly settling for rehashing its predecessor and throwing a bunch of gore and profanity against the wall to see what sticks. And when all else fails, which is often, they throw in another vintage film reference or past top 10 hit.
The horror part of this horror/comedy takes a little while to get in gear, and the latter portion aims squarely for the lowest common denominator from the start; VD and masturbation are brought up within the first 10 minutes. Every generation needs its cheeseball raunch comedies, I guess, and perhaps undiscriminating teenagers will dig this stuff. Anyway, Judah is a school pariah, but his old friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) still likes him, and perhaps really likes him, but instead, of course, she’s dating loudmouth jerk Jimmy (Maximilian Acevedo). Nonetheless, she convinces Judah to join her, Jimmy and a couple of their friends in traveling to a huge lakeside party, and then heading out for some private festivities aboard a houseboat. There’s some very attractive photography (by Scott Henriksen) of the water and surrounding canyons by both day and night, a highlight in a movie so lazy in its plotting that it establishes the area as having no cell reception, then has people making multiple calls later.
The trouble starts when the babysitter’s murderous yet incompetent gang from the first film, all resurrected from beyond the grave and yet still vulnerable to physical death, turn up and attempt to submit Judah to the same blood ritual they previously failed to carry out. Fortunately, he has a new ally: Phoebe (Jenna Ortega), a transfer to his high school from juvenile hall who turns up at the lake with mysterious business of her own–which, of course, will prove to be tied directly to Judah’s own situation. Cue the pursuit and a series of confrontations that frequently have insanely splattery punchlines, yet for all the torn flesh and spewing gore (sometimes physical effects by Christien Tinsley and Robin Hatcher, sometimes conspicuous CGI), the bloodshed once again has no weight.
Through it all, the pop-culture shout-outs continue, sometimes inappropriately. African-American John (Andrew Bachelor) makes a comment about Jordan Peele, which once again is ill-advised in a film in which the black characters are the most OTT ones. “White Rabbit” is employed in a manner suggesting the filmmakers don’t get what the song is about, and Tangerine Dream’s hypnotic “Love on a Real Train” cue from RISKY BUSINESS is used for a gag–and then twice again in an attempt to make a couple of scenes more meaningful. KILLER QUEEN even calls back directly to its own predecessor, but no more cleverly than having “WHAT THE FUCK?–AGAIN” pop up on the screen. The way in which the relationship between Judah and Phoebe develops has its nice moments, which means THE BABYSITTER: KILLER QUEEN gets slightly better as it goes along, but little of it has a chance to register when McG is playing everything with the dial turned up to 11 (oops, I just did it too!).