THE BABYSITTER (1980)

We’re deviating slightly and going to the treasure trove of ’80s made for TV movies – the kind that would take something you just assumed was safe and then terrified you to no end.  Sort of like what plays on Lifetime at any given moment.

You may ask – “What sets this apart from any of the other things I can find on Lifetime at any minute?”

This:

That’s right.  You’re all about to get Shatner’d.

The plot is right there – Mom’s going to go nuts, and Shatner’s going to venture into undiscovered country – which is being seduced by underaged girls.  Strap in.

Behold Tara, all-American girl. That is, if you’re definition of a all American girl is middle class with a inattentive father and expressing her emotions to a doll. But lets face facts- if a evil babysitter hadn’t infiltrated their way into the house, she may have been on her way to becoming one.

Like most made for TV situations, this family lives near a quaint dock, far from questioning eyes. Just serene upper middle class heaven – the kind of environment where the girl from nowhere doesn’t get questioned and is automatically offered free room and board in exchange for babysitting services.

 

 

Every Star Trek enthusiast (I’ll throw in the TJ Hooker fanset too) know that.

How did you meet your babysitter? Craigslist? Friend referral? Did you almost hit her with your car and feel bad about, and THEN offer her a job? One of these options applies to this movie and therefore the most reliable.

In case you’re wondering, “I don’t know. This family clearly would have been okay had it not been for a crazy babysitter”, let me put it to you. This movie opens with Tara, the 13 year old girl talking to dolls and then trying to steal her parents car.

“Do you always walk in front of passing cars? Your boldness would be a good match for my daughter’s mousiness and budding mental problems. Which she gets from me.”

This horrifyingly bad decision signifies that Mom has some mental instability. Not that the movie caught on.

This movie stops at nothing to show us this family is so incredibly close to domestic perfection.  So close.  As long as no one’s talking, then perfection is achieved

And as this movie cannot stress enough – MOM IS HANGING BY A MENTAL THREAD.

We should probably talk about how Tara dresses like she’s late for her shift at Alice’s Diner while complaining about oatmeal. The fact she never says “Kiss my grits” is the biggest missed opportunity.

 

Let’s talk about the babysitter.  She’s lovely in a 70s made for TV way. She had nothing going on in life but is a fantastic housekeeper and cook and enjoys talking to people from her past when there’s no one in the room. Also, when the camera does one of these tight close ups on her face, you will be treated to the sounds of a creepy moog synthesizer, which represents the tortured state of her mind. Also, she’s single.

It was mentioned that due to the Babysitter’s positive influence, Tara is not watching as much television and is no longer afraid of the outdoors.

HANGING BY A THREAD.

“I think my husband’s having an affair.”

“Do you mind if I take your car and go to a movie?”

“Sure.”

The tension in this film is through the roof.

Now this movie starts getting interesting….the Babysitter tries on a fairly modest looking nightgown and waits for William Shatner to walk in on her.

Which he does….

The spiral of destruction is in full force. The head of the house, William Shatner is a man of action. He was the Captain of the Enterprise and yelled at people to do his bidding….

 

…but in this case he stares at her and speaks in whispered tones for her to get out.

Naturally, she doesn’t, but she does say, “Fine. I’ll put it back.”

She comes back to him the next day with these words of comfort, “You had sex with your wife last night, didn’t you?”

No one plays it more mild than Shatner.  They don’t call it Shatnering for nothing.

“Whatever you do, stay bland.”

This kid let all of his emotions show through – even the ones where he was casually enjoying a boat ride with a sexy babysitter.

Know where it got him?

His only crime was loving too much. By loving I mean, sort of hitting on the Babysitter during a casual boat ride and saying, “Hey, can I see you later?”
William Shatner stays bland at all costs.
 “You take me to your parties, and if I want to drink, I’ll drink! Because you love your job too much!”
 “Shut up about my job! She loves me in more ways than you’ll ever understand!”

We get a small glimpse of his emotional threshold when she accuses him of being to judgey. Then he springs to action. Kind of. His face muscles still remain slightly rested.

 

“Hey Mom – I think the babysitter is doing a lousy job of taking care of the house. Should we fire her? Plus, why are you drinking at 9am in your slip?”

“Hello? Am I alone in here?”

Poor Tara. She’s one more traumatic incident short of becoming her own manipulative babysitter.

When the Babysitter REALLY snaps, we are treated to a all out monologue, one that I suspect was used in an audition. It has everything – a tragic backstory about being a foster child, the desire for love and belonging, and she throws in a little, “No one understands me”. Its amazing – so much so that she snaps, espescially when talking about all those other families she murdered.

The bland arms of William Shatner cannot save her from herself. Drastic measures are taken…

She goes on a murderous rampage for Tara who cleverly hid herself in a room with glass windows.

It all comes crashing down – the friendly neighborhood police take a break from cracking the case of missing bicycles and issuing citations for dogs without licenses and take the Babysitter away. Presumably to sit in jail and clean and cook for the inmates there, where she’ll convince them all that they’re alcoholics that should just give up on life all together.

On second thought, this is TV. She’ll get out and prey on a TV family, hopefully starring Heather Locklear.

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For Your Consideration – ENDLESS LOVE (1981)

Here’s the most memorable moments from this film.  Also before I get into this, this movie did the one thing that no other Hollywood film has done – made me glad I didn’t date in high school.

So basically Brooke Shields and a moon faced guy who’s name I can’t remember are dating.  She’s 15, he’s 17.  She’s studying French, he won’t leave her alone.  So here’s the oddest moments in the film;

1.     Right away, moon face kid has stalked her on her class field trip to the planetarium.  She asks what would happen if she died. He says he’d die too.  I already hate this kid more than anyone I knew in high school. Also I discover his name is David.
2.     David  goes to a dinner party at Brooke Shield’s house. They dress like the cast of Ragtime and clearly shop at Pier 1.  Mom enters the room in a kimono.  


S He seems a little too interested in getting David’s thoughts on it.  I chose to ignore this as willful 80s ignorance.

3.     Their dinner party seems a low key event. Given this was 1981, I expected this family to break out the International Café in a variety of flavors.  Because that’s what I think happened in classy 80s dinner parties.

However, the party soon evolves into this….

…and then Dad gets in the act.  Please note the guy in glasses in the background who looks like he just wandered in the house to smell the seat cushions and wasn’t sure how to leave.
This is where I realize Brooke’s brother is played by James Spader.  Apparently he’s dating a singer with a band. Her name is “Cathy”.  She proceeds to sing “Endless Love”
I’d imagine now that she tries to tell people she was in “Endless Love” and she sang the song. But Diana Ross, she ain’t.

Mooney creepily stares at Brooke during the song.  

Please note the look on Dad’s face.  I’ve seen that look plenty of times on my own Dad’s face.  Usually  it was after I got marinara on the couch or he walked into the room while I was watching something like this movie.
After the party, Brooke tells David to go home.  Here’s his response….

Things were very different  back then.  Had this been my house, he would have had a can of mace and a German Shepherd to deal with.
So comes the big moment…..
And Mom heads downstairs and this is what she sees….
Mom just stares….

I hate this movie so much. I hate everyone in it.  I can’t decide who I hate more.
Mom’s still staring.
Okay, I hate her the most.
After that, David just apparently infiltrates himself into this family’s social activities. Like duck hunting.  Anyway, him and Mom have an awkward conversation about it.  And then this happens.

As promised, they go duck hunting.  James Spader shoots guns and is really good at it.  He has this line for David…
“Just because you’re f*&!@# my sister doesn’t make you part of the family.”
I’m just writing down that if we don’t see James hunting David with a gun by the end of this , then this movie has failed us in every sense possible.
David walks around Brooke’s house naked, proving that David is quite possibly the stupidest human being alive.
Should be noted, that Mom thinks this arrangement is fine. She is truly gunning for David’s title.
Brooke falls asleep in class a lot.  Quite possibly due to the fact that David is always naked and in her room.

This photo has nothing to do with the plot.  I was just fascinated by Dad’s odd glasses. Sort of Franklin’s failed invention of the no-focals.

David breaks into Brooke’s house at 230 in the morning to have sex with Brooke, thus completing this guy’s journey to crazy town.

Zefferelli went gangster on the  night sky imagery in this movie.  I understand he made this as sort of a homage to Romeo and Juliet, but it’s a little heavy handed.

David: “I’m going to name a star after you”.

And then I imagined Brooke getting one of those cheesy certificates, where you pay $40 to name a star.

Not that we needed to see it, here’s David’s “O-face”.

Here’s Brooke’s…. it looks like the face I make when I’m falling asleep during “Lord of the Rings”.

So after Dad catches David skulking away at 7 am, David’s getting banned from the house.

Also, Brooke is getting addicted to sleeping pills.  
Instead of David rethinking his life and where he wants to go, he seeks counseling from his peers.
Jeez, like this kid.  I wouldn’t trust this kid with parental relations if my life….  

            Wait a minute….
           

Tom Cruise is telling David about the time he set fire to his house to make himself look like a hero.  Getting a second opinion would just be stupid at this point.  So he sets fire to the house, gets the family out, promptly admits to doing it and gets sent to a mental ward.

Lesson here is don’t take advice from Tom Cruise.

 So David spends years there, and sees visions of Brooke shields playing with her hair.  It upsets the inmates and his parents who are now getting separated because they’ve never learned love like David has.  If only Dad had set fire to a house, then David would at least have had a sibling.
I just liked this scene of David and a kid named Leonard…

“Get the f___ out of here, Leonard!”
I guarantee Leonard’s story would have been way better.
Mom and Dad bring David home (probably wishing they could have switched him with Leonard). He finds out the stacks of letters he sent Brooke never got to her.  Also, her parents have since divorced and Cougar Mom is now living in New York.   David’s had some time in the hospital to sit down and reflect on who the person he wants to be, so naturally, this visit shouldn’t be awkward at all….
Until this happens….

NO ONE HAS LEARNED A THING. I officially hate this movie and everything and everyone that was involved in making it.
Despite all of this, Mom convinces David to stay the night at her apartment.  He finds Brooke’s address.  She lives in Vermont. He’s got a plan. 
So far, this movie has promised me a Romeo and Juliet ending and James Spader hunting David in the woods with a gun.  Only one of those things will make me happy at this point.
While David is roaming the streets of New York (presumably searching for a touristy hat or getting tickets to see Avenue Q), he spots Brooke’s father and is new girlfriend.  He spots him and automatically jumps into the street to run after him. He gets hit by a cab and David dully stands over the body until the police come. So he leaves the scene of the crime.
Again, David, is the dumbest man alive. And proof that mental health care is woefully lacking.
Speaking of which, guess who shows up at David’s door

I understand that there are some people who have friendly relationships with their exes. However, I’m sure those people don’t laugh about the time their house got burned down or the time they were the cause of their father’s death over a 2008 Merlot.
David and Jade are not one of them and the conversation quickly turns miserable.

I should add that Brooke’s eyebrows are mind blowingly fluffy in this scene.

Despite the fact they’ve made up, James Spader is not willing to accept their love.  He disappointingly gunless in this scene as another reminder that sometimes in life, we don’t get what we want.
I think this is the only time I’ve ever rooted for James Spader. 

Should’ve brought that gun. 
The final scene is Brooke and her mother talking, reflecting on that scene where James Spader’s girlfriend ripped off that Lionel Ritchie song. They’re in the snow and crying and I’m reminded on how much I hate being a woman sometimes. And then I think about how despite Mom is trying to convince Brooke to move on and try anything, you can’t get around the fact that to her the phrase “Try everything” includes “Make moves on your daughter’s ex.”
We leave the movie with David stalking Brooke and then freeze framing on her. It makes no sense and I don’t know why.

So she’s moved on? Kind of makes the “endless” part of the title a moot point.
Here’s where I would have given this movie a thumbs up. A shot of James Spader holding a gun just a few feet from David.