Director and producer, McG (Charlie’s Angels) has a true appreciation for cinema of all kinds, making his long list of projects so generous in nature and content. From music videos to film, he has a talent for mixing together genre pieces to create his own brand of entertainment. Following the success of The Babysitter starring Samara Weaving (Ready Or Not), Judah Lewis (Summer of 84), Robbie Amell (The Duff), Bella Thorne (Blended), King Bach (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before), Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect), and Emily Alyn Lind (Doctor Sleep), McG returns to direct the wildly wicked sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, moving with protagonist Cole into high school where he meets Phoebe played by Jenna Ortega (You). With sequels being such a divisive method of storytelling within the horror genre, I wanted to know what motivated McG to continue The Babysitter films and what about horror itself intrigues the director as a filmmaker.
Some spoilers for both The Babysitter and The Babysitter: Killer Queen lay ahead…
“A lot went into that period of listening to records and watching movies […] It’s such a mash-up. It’s such a mixtape. I just feel like this is my answer to the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique record.”
Jessica For Nightmare On Film Street: I’m a big fan, a lifelong fan, of everything that you’ve done over the years. I really love The Babysitter. Now with the sequel, how did you get it worked out with everything going on? Did you film during quarantine or was this something that was in the works for a while?
McG: It’s something that’s been in the works for a while. It’s always tough to wrangle the schedules of Bella, Robbie, Judah, Jenna, and everyone else. It’s tricky, but we shot the movie at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year. We were lucky we just got done literally right before everything [went] wacko. We had to finish in quarantine, which was super odd for me. So much of it was Zoom-based and videoconference-based and detached from interacting with the editors and the composer and just really diving in and physically finishing the film. It was strange, but I think we got there. I’m happy it’s coming out and I hope the appetite is there around the world. I hope people are satisfied with what we’ve got up to in the sequel.
NOFS: I wouldn’t doubt it. Now as far as a sequel goes, what made you want to do a sequel to The Babysitter? The first was successful, especially among people in the horror community, on its own. What made you want to see what else we could get out of it?
McG: There’s actually three steps to the whole story that we conceived and now we’ve shown the world two of them and it just seemed natural because in the first film Cole is a boy. In the second film he is transitioning into young adulthood and I love that space for storytelling because I think it’s when people feel things most intensely. I can relate to that period in life very intensely also because I had a very odd high school experience, so it’s very close to my heart. I love John Hughes and that’s when I saw most of the horror movies that shaped me. A lot went into that period of listening to records and watching movies and the advent of home video, going through the whole Alfred Hitchcock catalog on a weekend, and things like that that I think you see reflected in this film.
NOFS: Oh for sure. Aside from John Hughes, are there any particular artists or directors or writers or even cinematographers that you like to invoke, especially for this film?
McG: If you look at the dance sequence, it’s just a function of my watching Flashdance so much and being raised on The Sound of Music and Grease and the music videos I was making for Quentin Tarantino in the 90’s. There’s so much of that there. Then the oddness of the flashbacks to show the backstory of each of these characters without any explanation is sort of an avant-garde move of, I dare I say, Belgian Third Wave movies that I would watch. It’s such a mash-up. It’s such a mixtape. I just feel like this is my answer to the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique record.
NOFS: Interesting. Nice description! Speaking to these kinds of influence, what drew you to the horror genre? You’ve got such a variety in your resumé. What made you want to go through the horror avenue and tell this story? What appeals to you most about the genre?
McG: The first thing was the script that Brian Duffield wrote for the first film. It was just so lively and original and I love horror. I watched Videodrome probably once every month or two. The Shining shaped my life and I saw Halloween when I was entirely too young to see Halloween and it kind of fucked me up. Between all that and Brian Duffield writing a great script, it just seemed like the right thing to do. But my goal was never to be genre-specific. My goal is to always mix genres and synthesize tones that don’t traditionally coexist and I’m hoping that’s what results in the originality of the film. There’s a little Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in there. There’s a little Guardians Of The Galaxy in there. You feel that. There’s a Simon Pegg influence and a few others, but hopefully at the end of the day it’s a grindhouse movie. It’s that mixtape that defies genre.
“my goal was never to be genre-specific. My goal is to always mix genres and synthesize tones that don’t traditionally coexist and I’m hoping that’s what results in the originality of the film.”
NOFS: I like that. I like the mixed tape perspective because it’s got a little humor and there’s a little drama and it’s got action. That’s really cool and it makes a lot of sense. Because there is so much to enjoy and that’s what makes it so original, is that something that you’re hoping that the audience takes away from it? What are you hoping that viewers take away from it at the end?
McG: Well, just the originality and that if you look more closely, there’s more there. The whole film is based on Goethe’s Faust. Obviously that’s a very cerebral, classic piece of material that’s Shakespearean in nature and deeply founded in the myths of selling your soul to the devil to achieve your goal. It’s as old as time, but hopefully it’s told in a way that’s decidedly contemporary and aware of social media and with the voicing that speaks for today’s audience. Again, that just speaks to that mash-up quality of the final result. I hope people like it, but I understand that it’s kind of an experimental film and it’s an odd film. Just to the fight sequence between two female characters where it looks like Mortal Kombat for no particular reason. That’s sort of something that will be celebrated or ridiculed and I hope people feel honored and respected. That was always my intention: to show the audience something new and take them away. The film is what I’ve been seeking my whole life as a film fan and trying to create in my directorial life.
NOFS: I think taking a classic and experimenting with it should be celebrated! When it comes to incorporating so many different pieces, aside from quarantine, what was the most challenging aspect on set?
McG: I think shooting on the water at night is very, very difficult. It was extremely cold. It was jet black dark and it just was scary and it got everybody’s head right. When Robbie had to get in the water, it was downright dangerous. The water was so cold, it was shockingly cold. Getting the cameras and the lighting and the electrical gear out there on the water at night, filling the world with fog and smoke to create the creepy environments, was extremely difficult. It’s a very aggressive style of film that is moving rapidly and hopefully action-packed and then you have to reset the gore factor and the splatter and, like I said, the Tarantino level of the grindhouse component and all of those things makes it tricky filmmaking, but I think it’s exhilarating in the end and hopefully you feel it coming through the screen.
NOFS: You definitely do. It has such an energy to it. Even the first one has this very particular energy and that’s what makes it fun and I’m sure that’s what makes it really enjoyable to do. Was it difficult getting the cast together? I really like a sequel that pulls all the original players back into it. You’ve got tremendous people in there, so great to see everybody come back. Was it something that everybody was game for?
McG: Everybody was excited. We all had a very good time on the first one. In the first film Bach dies so quickly and so early on that we didn’t get enough time with that character. Bella is offstage entirely too much and we didn’t get enough time with her. Same with Robbie, same with Hana Mae. It just seemed like we should go deeper and have those characters be involved in the second one. Naturally they never completed the ritual in the first movie, so that was our way into having them return. I think that the idea that the whole thing was puppeteered by the Bee character, that she put it all together and was in control the whole time is interesting. I also liked the fact that everybody sold their soul for ridiculous selfish purposes except Bee. Bee, who started this whole thing, sold her soul for a young girl to live. She was very heroic in doing it, but she sold her soul and there’s a lesson there: there’s a price to pay. I think that makes for an interesting card-flip at the end of the movie and obviously the first big twist is Melanie is the bad guy. She signed up too and she was our fun little girl next door that was always Jenna. Hopefully those are two big flips will be exciting for the audience.
NOFS: It absolutely should for anyone who enjoyed The Babysitter. I was totally psyched over it. You don’t have to go into detail, but what makes the second one different than the first one? Was there anything you particularly wanted to do differently?
McG: The opportunity for romance with Cole and who we think is Melanie only to ultimately be Phoebe and what I think is the discovery of a major young star in Jenna Ortega. I mean she’s the lead of the upcoming Scream movie. She’s booking everything in town. She’s so talented and so charismatic and original. The idea in the first movie, you can’t sexualize Cole. He has to be confounded by what he’s feeling towards Bee. Obviously it’s something that can never be realized. He’s a boy and she’s a grown woman. She’s the babysitter, it’s a childhood crush dynamic that you don’t understand when you’re his age. In this film he’s certainly free to be very much in love with Melanie only to have his heart broken to fall back in love with Phoebe. Those are things we couldn’t score in the first movie and felt like a real reason for the second movie to exist.
“[Jenna Ortega is] the lead of the upcoming Scream movie. She’s booking everything in town. She’s so talented and so charismatic and original.”
NOFS: Like you said, it’s a perfect transition. Now. Do you see yourself venturing into any more horror genre type stories?
McG: Absolutely. Again, it’s one of my favorite genres. I mean everything from Midsommar to Evil Dead, the whole gamut of that is so regal and that is fun. Even, like what you represent, I’m a huge, huge, huge fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was raised on the genesis of those films and they’re so important. I think if I do it again, I might have more of a Kubrick approach, but I’m not sure because I’m at my best when I’m having fun. I want to make sure that I’m able to use all the tools that I’ve had to use as a filmmaker, so I’m not sure I’m the best candidate to make my answer to Kubrick. I think I’m better when I can make the mixtape like we talked about.
McG’s The Babysitter: Killer Queen is currently streaming on Netflix. What do you think about The Babysitter films? Did you enjoy the sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!