It’s a tale as old as time – a young boy, just barely experiencing the first flush of puberty, falls in love with his teenage babysitter, a reflection of the exciting world of older women that have begun to occupy his thoughts.
Then, the babysitter attempts to sacrifice him as part of a satanic ritual. We’ve all been there.
The Babysitter, a Netflix original movie about this classic right of passage, has finally been given a release date – the movie will drop on October 13, just in time for Halloween.
The funny thing is, though, Netflix doesn’t really want audiences to watch this movie – if this thing becomes big enough, it could break the spell that’s kept Netflix original programming at the top of the television industry for the past year and a half.
It’s important to note that The Babysitter is not a movie that was commissioned by Netflix. Nor was it funded or produced by the streaming giant; instead, Netflix picked up the movie’s distribution rights after nobody else wanted it.
The film was made by New Line Cinema, was directed by McG of Charlie’s Angels and Terminator: Salvation fame; and was written by Brian Duffield, the guy who wrote the second Divergent movie. Looking at the key creative team’s credentials and bearing in mind that no movie studio wanted to distribute this thing, it’s pretty clear that The Babysitter is a big, stinky dud.
Nevertheless, Netflix saw a good deal and snapped it up. This was back during the period where the streaming service was more concerned about quantity of original content rather than quality – any new movie or TV show was something that set them apart from competitors, and was worth having on the books.
Even so, having acquired the rights to The Babysitter, Netflix’s Higher Ups decided that this probably shouldn’t see the light of day. It could be that this was the first rumblings of the shift in attitude within the company that saw it scaling back its original content, axing Sense8 because nobody really seemed to care about the show (although that proved to be a mistake in the end).
For whatever reason, The Babysitter has sat unreleased in Netflix’s library for almost a year. Now, it’s finally getting a release – immediately before Stranger Things 2.
Heck, these two offerings aren’t by any means the extent of Netflix’s Halloween lineup. We’re also getting an adaptation of two Stephen King stories, 1922 and Gerald’s Game, in order to give horror fans plenty to watch over the next month.
Naturally, it makes sense to release The Babysitter in this window, because at the end of the day, it’s a horror movie, and October is the month for that kind of content. But by slipping this movie quietly into the middle of a packed schedule, a mere two weeks before Stranger Things returns, it does feel like Netflix is hoping that nobody will notice this movie.
The horror buffs will see it, and enjoy it for what it is: a dumb, disposable scary movie that’s meant to be enjoyed once and then forgotten about.
What the streaming service doesn’t want is for larger audiences to discover this thing and begin pointing to it as an example of Netflix original programming gone horribly wrong. If anyone starts drawing comparisons between The Babysitter and Stranger Things, it could weaken the Netflix brand entirely, making it seem as if their crop of exclusive content is a mixed bag.
All eyes need to be on Stranger Things and other big hits. Disappointments, as well as movies and shows that are simply okay but nothing special, need to be hidden from view.
Quantity is no longer the driving force behind streaming services – Netflix has too many competitors who offer a wide variety of shows and movies. What Netflix needs is to cultivate the image that all of their stuff is golden; that they have the best exclusive content that people can’t get anywhere else.
The Babysitter has the potential to weaken this new brand focus. Even if it’s perfectly decent, it’s not something that Netflix wants people to discover, as it spreads the idea that their original content is skippable.
This is all the more pressing as horror continues to grow as a mainstream market. With IT tearing up the box office charts, media professionals are beginning to wonder whether horror will be the new superhero genre, exciting mainstream audiences worldwide.
As the owners of one of the big catalysts for this movement, Netflix wants all eyes on Stranger Things, and wants to keep average or forgettable horror movies out of the limelight as much as possible. If horror is to continue to grow in popularity, the genre can’t afford a dud right now.
This is why, even though Netflix is finally giving the world The Babysitter, the company doesn’t want anyone other than solid horror fans to find it.