Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Babysitters (2007)

Directed by David Ross
Starring Katherine Waterston, John Leguizamo, Lauren Birkell, Louisa Krause
Rated R

"We're going to hell, aren't we?"

First of all, as someone who grew up in the inner city, I suspect that these sort of hijinks are going on in the suburbs on a near-constant basis. I mean, why else would you move to the 'burbs? Anyway, like the equally factual Weekend with the Babysitter, this story begins with a seductive teenage sitter. Unlike that one, however - which ends with a gangfight between greasy mustachioed drug dealers and chubby motorcross hippies - The Babysitters goes in a much crazier direction.

Shirley (Katherine Waterston) is an obsessive-compulsive high school junior. Too mature for boys her own age and too bored to deal with her goofy friends, Shirley spends her free time babysitting for neighbors - and occasionally scrubbing their floors and rearranging their furniture while she's at it.

One evening she gets a ride home from Michael Beltran (John Leguizamo, in one of his less over-the-top performances), the father of one of the brats she sits for. They stop for an innocent burger on the way home, which naturally leads to making out in an abandoned train car a few minutes later. His wife doesn't pay attention to him (Cynthia Nixon - that might be the problem!), she's lonely and virginal, you know the drill.

Mike and Shirley develop a discreet sexual relationship. To mask his guilt, Mike pays her handsomely for every tryst. Eventually, she spills the beans to her excitable and possibly pathological best friend Melissa (Lauren Birkell), who wants in on the action.

Mike brokers a 'babysitting gig' with one of his buddies, Shirley takes a cut, and the downward spiral into debauchery begins.

Things start to go awry - imagine that - when Shirley recruits her baby-faced spazzoid friend Brenda (Louisa Krause). At first, Brenda doesn't even know sex is involved. But she gets up to speed pretty quickly. Then she goes rogue and recruits her younger sister Nadine (Halley Wegryn Gross), who start up a competing babysitter-prostitute ring.

Worse still - at least to Mike - Shirley starts 'babysitting' for other clients. He thought they were, you know, exclusive.

Shirley finds out what Nadine's up to and trashes the entire high school as a warning. Everybody gets the fuckin' picture. Then she devises a weekend getaway where all the dads in the neighborhood take off to some cabin in the woods to guzzle booze, smoke weed, snort coke, and fuck teenage babysitters. Who does Shirley think she is, Caligula?

By the way, finally, one hour in, Shirley takes her shirt off. Of course at this point, she's so poisonous, it's almost not worth it. Almost.

When Jerry (Andy Comeau) - the mustachioed asshole who owns the cabin - tries to doggystyle Brenda while she's puking in a sink - well, that's pretty much it for her. She quits, and Nadine starts her side-business bullshit again.

Shirley and Melissa head out to kill the bitch, but before they toss her off the side of the parking garage, The Babysitters lurches into its shocking - but entirely logical - twist ending.

I'll leave it for you to discover, but suffice to say, there's a lot of crying and puking involved.

One of the oddest mainstream releases in recent memory, The Babysitters is, at it's core, 70's style gutbucket sexploitation, a tawdry youth-gone-mad tale tailor-made for seen-it-all sleaze beasts. Strangely though, it never fesses up to what it is: the scuzzy, goo-covered underbelly of contemporary teen flicks like the Bring It On and American Pie series. Instead, it plays itself out deathly straight, like a particularly berserk Lifetime movie. Even Leguizamo, a notorious scenery-chewer, keeps a tight lid on his smirks and tics here, and the actresses - all relative unknowns confined mostly to TV dramas - never tip over into full-on camp, even though the script fairly screams for it. You start to wonder if perhaps you're supposed to learn some sort of lesson here, even if none of the characters in the film do.

Writer/director Ross previously wrote Lucky McKee's equally weird The Woods (2006), another film about teenage girls in peril - albeit a supernatural, witchy sort of peril - so this is well-worn material for him, and indeed, the characters in The Babysitters are all fully-fleshed out people. They just make some seriously ridiculous choices. The idea of four teenage girls from upper middle-class families willing to form a fucking babysitter hooker ring is so far-out that this almost has to be a satire. That is, unless all my suspicions about the suburbs are true.

Either way, this is a great film, jaw-dropping, queasy-funny, and in it's own quiet way, as outrageous and subversive as any modern-day sex n' splatter shockfest.

- Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. I just saw this movie last night and I have to admit, I found it just a little disturbing (and I don't say that often). It made me feel a bit dirty and ashamed to be a guy. That said, Shirley's breasts were fine. Poison or not. :)


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