The Babysitter: Killer Queen

★★★

You’ll likely know whether “The Babysitter: Killer Queen,” now available for streaming on Netflix, is for you prior to firing it up. Did you see its 2017 predecessor “The Babysitter?” Did you dig that ditty? “Killer Queen” is more of the same only bigger, longer and dumber. McG returns to the director’s chair, which will either entice you or fill you with dread … either reaction is perfectly understandable. I’m a bit of a McG apologist having enjoyed “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), “We Are Marshall,” “Terminator Salvation,” “This Means War,” the first “Babysitter” picture and “Rim of the World,” but make no mistake … “Killer Queen” feels every bit the work of the dude who helmed the Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” music video.

Judah Lewis reprises his role as Cole, a nerdy kid who survived an attempted cult killing at the hands of his babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving), and her cadre of cronies – Max (Robbie Amell), Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), Allison (Bella Thorne) and John (Andrew Bachelor). Cole vanquished his foes, but was too open and honest about what transpired and has subsequently been labeled as crazy by the police, his classmates, his teachers and even his own parents, Archie (Ken Marino) and Phyllis (Leslie Bibb). Cole’s only friend is his neighbor, Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind), on whom he harbors a crush. Unfortunately, she’s dating a musclehead by the name of Jimmy (Maximilian Acevedo). In spite of this, Melanie invites Cole along for a weekend excursion on a houseboat where he runs into Phoebe (Jenna Ortega), the new girl in school with a dark history and an accompanying rap sheet. Figures from Cole’s past reemerge, things become complicated and the bloodletting begins.

Lewis is a talented young actor who’s made a name for himself in genre fare such as these “Babysitter” pictures and “Summer of 84” after having broken out opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Demolition.” He kinda reminds me of Giuseppe Andrews, who some of y’all might remember from the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” music video as well as “Detroit Rock City.” The kid’s reliably good here, but I’m curious whose decision it was to dress him like Max Fischer in “Rushmore.”

Lind is memorable here much in the way she was in last year’s “Doctor Sleep.” It’s safe to assume this young lady has a bright future in horror flicks if she wants one. I wasn’t familiar with Ortega prior to “Killer Queen,” but liked her well enough that I’m looking forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve in the upcoming “Scream 5.” As good and lovely as these young lasses are, the movie’s sneaky standout is Carl McDowell as Dr. Big Carl McManus, the guidance counselor/nurse at the kids’ high school. Some of y’all might remember McDowell as TTD from HBO’s “Ballers.” He brings much of the same manic comedic energy to this role and a lot of it seems improvised. Humorously, McDowell’s McManus and the movie itself are strangely preoccupied with whether or not Lewis’ Cole is gonna get laid.

“Killer Queen” is a horror comedy that skews far more towards the comedic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of gruesome gore. When the jokes hit – they hit hard. When they miss – it’s brutal. The movie is chock-full of pop culture references ranging from “Deliverance” to “Risky Business” (going so far as to borrow its theme) to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” There are a ton of cool needle drops including the Queen tune from which the movie lifted its subtitle and “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, which many would now understandably say belongs to Edgar Wright and “Baby Driver.”

“The Babysitter” clocked in at a svelte 85 minutes. “Killer Queen” feels flabby at an hour and 42 minutes. Brian Duffield, who wrote the first film, serves as Executive Producer this time out, having been busy making his directorial debut, “Spontaneous.” Duffield was replaced on scripting duties by McG, Brad Morris, Jimmy Warden (who’s engaged to Weaving) and Dan Lagana (showrunner of “American Vandal”). The writing-by-committee didn’t result in as clear of a vision as its predecessor, but it’s still pretty fly for a bunch of white guys. Hell, I’d even happily watch a third installment of “The Babysitter” franchise.

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