BABYSITTER MUST DIE (aka JOSIE JANE: KILL THE BABYSITTER, 2020)
Directed by Kohl Glass.
Written by Kohl Glass, Julie Auerbach, Kevin Tavolaro.
Starring Riley Scott, Alexander Woods, Melinda Yeaman, Nathan Stevens, Scarlett Hazen, Kristen Marie Jensen, Nic Fitzgerald, Kalli Therinae, Shawn Francis Saunders, Robert Scott Smith
Josie Jane (Riley Scott) is a babysitter that is a little older than most. She’s been affiliated with the Girl Scouts for ages and is now a scout leader, brandishing her merit badges on a belt around her waist. When she takes a babysitting job for a well to do family, she finds herself in the middle of a home invasion by a group of cultists looking for something buried within the house. With the cultists searching the house and unaware that Josie Jane is in the house, they don’t realize the problem they have on their hands as Josie is more than qualified to defend herself and the family.
Obviously inspired by Netflix’s highly popular THE BABYSITTER franchise, BABYSITTER MUST DIE gives it the old college try to do everything it did on a fraction of the budget. For the most part, it succeeds, as the pace rolls pretty smooth and quick, those actors who are supposed to be liked are likable and the ones that aren’t are not. The story is somewhat different as it involves a home invasion and there is no “What the fuck?” twist midway through, but still, it makes for a tamer, lower scale, version of the Samara Weaving film franchise. Riley Scott is no Samara Weaving though and while she does have a plucky attitude and seems pretty wholesome, her backstory where she is an adult afraid to grow up is pretty much forgotten once the home invaders arrive. She just reverts to protection mode which is a more extreme version of babysitting anyway.
There is an attempt to pep things up with freezeframes and closeups on each badge Josie has achieved while she is doing it like parkour as she leaps over the sofa, but these details land in a rather clunky way as the film simply isn’t edited in a way that exudes the frantic energy this film desperately wants to have. These snippets of flair don’t happen enough in the beginning, so when they occur later, they feel somewhat out of place. The gore and violence is very real and vicious, which would be ok, but feels tonally off. THE BABYSITTER’s violence was over the top and almost cartoonish and it worked with the electric tone and scattershot pacing. BABYSITTER MUST DIE’s slower pace and more realistic violence (an entire family is threatened, and some are beaten nearly to death) kill any playful tone it attempts to achieve with the merit badge cut-aways.
Even though they attempted and failed to capture that lightning in a bottle that was THE BABYSITTER, the cultists are capably threatening and Josie is a protagonist worth rooting for, making BABYSITTER MUST DIE a watchable and breezy, yet somewhat redundant home invasion flick.