A lot happens on Halloween. Adults go to parties. Kids go trick-or-treating. And monsters come out of the closet to kidnap little children.
So when Kelly’s 5-year-old charge, Jacob, is taken by creatures of the night, she isn’t quite sure what to do. She herself was attacked by a boogeyman at that age, but nobody believed her. In fact, kids at school started calling her “Monster Girl.” And even though she insists that she’s only scared of real-life things now (such as climate change, inequality, talking to boys and everything she reads on Twitter), if she tells people that Jacob was taken by monsters, they’ll think she has truly lost it.
Enter the Order of the Babysitters.
Comprised of teens who survived monster attacks when they were young—just like Kelly—the Order is a secret organization whose goal is to protect kids from everything that goes bump in the night.
At first, Kelly is just concerned about getting Jacob back before his mom gets home. But after Liz (the vice president of the Order’s Rhode Island chapter) and the other babysitters discover that Jacob was taken by the Grand Guignol—essentially boogeyman royalty—they realize the whole world is at stake.
It turns out that Jacob has more in common with Kelly than just being scared of monsters. They both possess an ability called the Gift of Dreams, which allows them to make their dreams come to life. It’s why Kelly was targeted as a kid in the first place. And if the Order doesn’t rescue him fast, the Grand Guignol will bring Jacob’s nightmares to life and unleash a monster army upon the world.
Not to mention that if she loses the kid, Kelly’s parents will give her the grounding of her life.
Through working with the Order, both Kelly and Jacob learn how to be brave and overcome their fears and doubts. Liz teaches Kelly not to care about what people say about her since saving the world—or even just saving one kid—is so much more important than what people think of them. In turn, Kelly helps Liz overcome her own feelings of inadequacy by reminding her that she can do anything with the support of her friends.
Jacob’s mom, at first, seems to be insensitive toward her son’s fear of monsters and the dark—almost as though it’s an inconvenience to her. However, we realize that she isn’t actually annoyed but rather worried for his wellbeing, especially since he doesn’t sleep much. So when Kelly is finally able to get Jacob to fall asleep peacefully, she is incredibly grateful and even asks if Kelly will babysit for Jacob again.
The Order of the Babysitters fights fire with fire—at least in terms of magic. Many monsters in their world possess supernatural abilities, and the babysitters use potions and magical objects to resist those powers. One object, a type of potion called Angel Fire, is the only thing that can kill monsters.
The Grand Guignol can hypnotize people through song and also uses magic to seal Jacob’s mouth shut. He is also called the “stealer of dreams” and “bringer of nightmares.”
We also hear about Kelly and Jacob’s Gift of Dreams, which allows them to bring dreams (or nightmares) to life. The Grand Guignol uses this magic (and some inventive technology) to harness this gift and create skeletal, ghoul-like creatures.
An amulet hypnotizes a young boy and makes him fall asleep. A witch turns a couch into dozens of cats. Objects move on their own; it is unclear if they are being controlled by monsters or if they are somehow sentient.
We see some crosses in a cemetery. Kelly talks about a movie with unicorns. We hear references to the Greek goddess Artemis and the wizard Merlin.
A few teens gawking at members of the opposite sex. Someone calls a teenage boy “Casanova.” Kelly asks if a baby belongs to Liz before realizing that Liz is just babysitting the child.
While monster hunting, Liz and the other babysitters occasionally have to fight the beasties. People and creatures exchange kicks and punches, some characters get thrown around and objects get smashed.
The only way to kill a boogeyman is to Monster Punch (read, hit really hard) a mystical object called Angel Fire into the heart of the monster. This causes the Angel Fire to explode, vaporizing the creature from the inside out. We see this succeed once, but we also see it fail, destroying a young girl’s bedroom.
A newborn baby is used as bait to attract monsters that reportedly eat infants—though the babysitters prevent the child from being harmed. We hear several references to monsters eating humans. A monster kicks a bag containing a little boy and the boy reaches out to punch the monster in the eye. Another monster threatens to knock a kid out with a sledgehammer. Someone threatens to feed Kelly to a hobgoblin. Several seasoned babysitters show off their monster-hunting scars.
We hear “d–n” used once. God’s name is misused twice. We also hear “heck,” “gosh” and “OMG.” Name-calling includes “idiot” and “loser.”
Some teenagers at a party drink out of red plastic cups that could be construed as alcoholic beverages.
In a film titled A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting, you can pretty much expect to see plenty of the creepy beasties on screen. However, there are also several non-creature elements meant to inspire fear as well—such as toys that blink, doors that open and close on their own, and mysterious gusts of wind that blow through even though the windows are shut. These suspenseful moments are often followed by jump scares and, you probably guessed it, monsters.
However, these creatures of the night vary in their levels of scariness. There’s the small and toothy Toadies, who like to eat babies and certainly pack a wallop, but who are so goofy-looking that they inspire more laughs than screams. Then there’s the Shadow Monster. This one is a bit creepier, slinking its way through shadows, reaching tentacles out to snatch anyone caught unawares. (Though we later see it’s actually quite small, has many eyes and could even be considered cute to some.) There’s also a witch with man-eating cats and wallpaper that moves.
And finally, there’s the Grand Guignol himself. Self-titled the Master of Menace and Sultan of Suffering, this King of Monsters is the most human-looking but somehow also the most frightening. With fingers and limbs that extend like tentacles, glowing demonic eyes and a song that hypnotizes children and adults alike, he’s the sort of boogeyman that inspires nightmares.
Although they are providing a public service, members of the Order of the Babysitters do have to break a few rules to do so, including lying directly to the parents of their charges, hacking into phones, trespassing and driving a motorcycle with a baby strapped on someone’s back.
And speaking of those parents, they are surprisingly unaware of the creatures tormenting their children. They insist that it’s just their kids’ minds playing tricks on them. And when Kelly calls 911 to report that Jacob has been kidnapped, they hang up on her. This is especially sad in the case of Liz, who was partially blamed for not preventing her own little brother’s kidnapping when she was just 6.
Bullies at Kelly’s school tease her relentlessly for being smart and for being scared of monsters. We hear that a boy ate crayons and thought they were “delicious.” A woman calls her boss the “Ice Queen,” but then chastises her daughter for doing the same. A little boy eats candy after he is told not to by his mom. A baby passes gas. Someone talks about “gnome guano.” A girl jumps off a balcony onto a couch as a stunt.
A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting comes with some valuable lessons—that we should be brave, that we should stand up for ourselves and that we shouldn’t worry about what others might say about us.
It almost feels like the film is trying to subliminally teach us that if we can overcome our fear of monsters from childhood, we can overcome our fears of mean kids or inadequacy or whatever else ails us as we age. We simply have to tell our fears to “take a hike.”
Unfortunately, while the film encourages kids not to be scared of the monsters hiding under their beds (or perhaps the ones they attend school with), it only does so after showing the terrifying beasties on screen—and this could very well frighten some young viewers rather than inspiring them.
There are some minor language concerns that parents should be aware of, as well as some bad behaviors that are justified due to the whole “saving the world” aspect.
All in all, there are some terrific messages here. But monster-y moments may push this often fun flick out of bounds for some families with young or sensitive kids.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.