One Halloween when Kelly Ferguson was 5 years old she was attacked by the boogeyman and lived to tell the tale. An act of remarkable heroism that should have got the world talking about the things that go bump in the night! But no one believed Kelly’s story and the only talk her bravery provoked was the gossip laughing behind her back, which earned her the nickname Monster Girl.
Today Kelly (Tamara Smart) is a bright, articulate teenager with a huge appetite for knowledge and an aptitude for geometry. With the passage of time and the strict application of common sense, she has determined that her Halloween battle was all in her mind and put her dark past behind her. Unfortunately, the Monster Girl moniker has proven harder to shake off.
A Halloween party with the popular crowd at school is an irresistible opportunity to revamp her image and spend some time in the orbit of her crush Victor (Alessio Scalzotto). Unfortunately, Kelly’s mum has volunteered her to babysit, the boogeyman is back and Kelly’s nervous young charge Jacob (Ian Ho) has been stolen away by creatures from his own imagination. This is no time to party!
Following on from its excellent revamp of The Babysitter’s Club (and featuring a fun cameo from one of the young stars) Netflix’s smart Halloween offering gives a clever tween twist to a hardy horror staple – the final girl – as Kelly is given a unique opportunity to face down her fears, embrace her gifts and discover she is not the only Monster Girl in town.
The timely arrival of pro babysitter Liz Lerue (Oona Laurence), and her ghoul hunting bible, open up a new and extraordinary world to Kelly. She doesn’t have to fight for her tall tales to be believed, Liz and the entire International Order of Babysitters have been kicking monstrous arse since time began.
Kelly’s boogeyman is the notorious Grand Guignol (Tom Felton), a prancing Betelgeuse with a nightmarish plan to convert Jacob’s nightmares. He and cat-loving glamourpuss Peggy Drood (Indya Moore) are the only adults populating the creepy underworld where babies make splendid bait and soft play centres are doorways to the underworld (credible, if you’ve ever been to one).
The 9-year-old who contributed opinions to this review would very much like to see Kelly’s story continue. With its Project Mc2 vibes and Babysitter’s Club parallels it would likely do well as a small screen series. Although some of the elements that make A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting ideal viewing for a little girl do grate on older ears, Tom Felton’s Guignon is a patchwork of familiar baddies and the dialogue is pretty trite.
The scope of its imagination, however, is as vast as Jabob and Kelly’s combined. A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting is a really fun ride, it establishes the central characters well enough to make the simple story engaging and has the benefit of a talented and diverse cast who make you care about its outcome. Director Rachel Talalay has brought the first book in Joe Ballarini’s beloved series to life with evident affection and, though the delivery is straightforward, there are still visual flourishes to admire.
Tamara Smart’s Kelly is a smashing protagonist for young audiences to root for. Vulnerable and bruised from her past but not afraid to let her intelligence and talents shine. She learns and adapts, taking on the wisdom of the older order members and making good choices even when they’re against her own interest. Refreshingly she even has her priorities right when the boy of her dreams makes her dream come true…he’ll keep, Kelly has monster hunting to do!
A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting will be released on Netflix October 15, 2020