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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Babysitter (Blu-ray)
The Babysitter (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // R // August 25, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted August 31, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Although it doesn't necessarily stand out among the catalog titles that Olive Films is licensing for Blu-ray, I'm sure the Blu-ray debut of The Babysitter is an announcement that made a small but passionate crowd very happy. Although the film doesn't quite work (in this critic's opinion, anyway), it's impossible to deny the film has a germ of an interesting idea, one that remains potent even as director / screenwriter Guy Ferland, no doubt the brainchild of the idea, struggles to figure out what to do with it. It's the kind of unexpected jolt of style that takes what seems on the surface to be one of a number of early-'90s lolita thrillers (think Poison Ivy) and stamps "cult movie" all over it.

The film unfolds over the course of a single evening, in which Harry Tucker (J.T. Walsh) and Dolly Tucker (Lee Garlington) are preparing to go to a party thrown by Bill and Bernice Holsten (George Segal and Lois Chiles). They hire the babysitter in question, Jennifer (Alicia Silverstone), to watch their young children Jimmy (Ryan Slater) and Bitsy (Brittany English Stephens) and hit the road. Unbeknownst to Harry and Dolly, Jennifer has just broken up with her boyfriend Jack (Jeremy London), who is sulking at a local diner. There, Jack runs into Mark Holsten (Nicky Katt), who picks up on Jack's disillusionment and begins picking at it like a scab. Before long, he's worked Jack up into a jilted rage, and convinced him that they should slip over to the Tuckers and pay Jennifer a visit.

If that doesn't sound like much of a plot, that's because it isn't. The Babysitter isn't driven by its story so much as the characters' relationship to Jennifer, and, in pretty much every case, their sexual desire for her. At least half of the film is made up not of actual story developments, but fantasies that the characters have about Jennifer, starting with Harry Tucker and on down through to little Jimmy. Over the course of the movie, each character's fantasy develops and changes, and as the film works up to a more feverish pitch, the fantasies even start to run together: what looks like Harry's fantasy may turn out to be Dolly's, or one of Mark's scenarios in which he taunts Jack turns out to be Jack's dream about getting the upper hand on Mark. In each of them, Jennifer is a slightly different person, bent to the whims of whoever is picturing her.

The only problem with this structure is that the characters focused on Jennifer all naturally end up seeming like supporting characters, leaving a crucial gap at the center of the film. Although the dream sequences have a surreal quality that bleed into one another, most of the people converging on Jennifer aren't doing so together (and even Jack and Mark have far different objectives in going to the Tucker's house). The movie feels like an anthology film telling several half-baked stories at once, ones which have no beginning, and come to an end but don't necessarily have a conclusion. Were Jennifer more of a character, then the film might have a stronger backbone for Ferland's unique structure to rest on, but she seems to be an intentionally passive character, a perfectly normal girl who is more focused on her babysitting assignment than the whims of the guys surrounding her. Painting Jennifer this way has the noble outcome of making her seem relatable and sympathetic in a film that could be all about ogling her like its characters do, but she becomes so normal as to become passive.

Although the core of the film feels oddly empty, the movie's cult status is supported by the fact that nearly everything else about the movie is fairly effective, especially the performances by the movie's ensemble cast. J.T. Walsh made a career out of playing slimeballs, and slips right into another sleazy guy here, and Katt and London have a fun antagonistic chemistry, fueled mostly by Katt's oddly compelling, lackadaisical douchebag, who manages to say things in just the right cadence that Jack continues to hang out with him despite Mark constantly pissing him off. However, the real standouts here are Garlington and Silverstone. Garlington is arguably the most sympathetic character in the film as the disappointed Dolly, who is tired of Harry's drunken cluelessness, and believes she has a new suitor in Segal's Bill. Her tipsy sadness is extremely affecting even as a side thread. At the center of the film, despite being given little material to work from, Silverstone is magnetic, slipping in and out of the temptress role for the fantasy sequence with ease, while also conveying the casual sweetness that makes her character so intriguing to everyone around her.

The Blu-ray
Olive brings The Babysitter to Blu-ray with the original theatrical poster art, of Silverstone in a deep blue light, looking sultry, now framed by a white border. The single-disc release uses Olive's usual template for the back art, which has the technical specs and other details framed by white bars to bring out black text. The one-disc release comes in an INFINITI Blu-ray case, and there is a postcard inside one can send away for an Olive Films catalog.

The Video and Audio
Once you get past the soft optical credits, Olive's presentation of The Babysitter, in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, looks and sounds pretty solid on Blu-ray. The film's grain structure is intact, colors are nicely saturated (some of the dream sequences, namely Mark's, have some stylish lighting), and detail is very impressive. The film is mostly dialogue-based with only the occasional, very faint bit of affectation when some of the fantasies are going, and although this is only a 2.0 track, the mix is clean and impressive, bringing the viewer into the movie's hypnotic atmosphere, especially via the music. Sadly, no subtitles or captions are provided.

The Extras
None, not even a trailer.

Although The Babysitter is a fascinating film, and a good buy for those who have been waiting to own it in HD for years, it's not an entirely effective movie, giving into its stylish structure to a degree that hurts it as a narrative. At the same time, the film does feature a number of pleasing performances from up-and-coming stars and a handful of character actors, so it ultimately averages out to a rental, if not a full recommendation.

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