“The Babysitter,” which debuted in October, is a flashy trifle directed by McG, the onetime music video director (his 1998 clip for the Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” is simultaneously exhilarating and cringeworthy). The movie depicts a likable teenage nerd, Cole, discovering that his very attractive and friendly-to-the-point-of-flirtatious babysitter, Bee, is a Satanist who intends, with her attractive young-adult coven, to sacrifice him while his parents are away for the weekend. It’s like a libidinous “Home Alone,” I guess. Given that McG has adopted the latest graphics and special effects technology to augment his already showy style, one expects “The Babysitter” to move like a supersonic jet. In fact, it’s puzzlingly logy. An interlude in which Cole is pursued by the high school quarterback is long and aimless, and Cole’s alliance with a more age-appropriate classmate to vanquish the devil worshipers is tepid. The auto stunts of the finale are kind of fun but too little too late.
“Creep 2” is a sequel to a 2014 movie, also available on Netflix. Spoiler alert: Since the sequel takes up where “Creep” ended, it begins with Mark Duplass playing the same serial killer as before. The hook in both pictures, very appropriate for postmodern microbudget filmmaking, is that this killer attracts his victims by soliciting for videographers on Craigslist. The twist here, if it can be called that, is that Mr. Duplass’s serial killer admits right off to the failed webcaster Sara (Desiree Akhavan) that he’s a murderer. He wants the video he’s commissioned to be his testament. Pairing male serial killer with female videographer might generate some tensions beyond the usual, and indeed, Mr. Duplass’s character gets buck naked in front of Sara’s camera in the first step of what he deems a trust-building exercise. But this movie generates most of its shocks the same way the first one did: via use of a deliberately clunky subjective camera, in front of which Mr. Duplass will periodically jump from behind a door or a corner and scream “Boo!” or some variant thereof. As Orson Welles once said, “unrewarding.”
Credit Tony Rivetti Jr./Netflix
I had higher hopes for “1922,” adapted from a novella by Stephen King that’s unrelentingly grim, even by his standards. It tells the story of a farm-life-fixated dolt who kills his wife rather than sit still for her plan to sell off her land and move to Omaha. Manipulating his teenage son’s resentments, he enlists the boy in the homicide. Things get worse from there, with hallucinations (or are they?) of the walking dead and lots of rats.
The film, directed by Zak Hilditch from his own screenplay, is a handsome-looking production that’s sunk almost immediately by its practically reflexive devotion to cornpone cliché. On the page, the reader can hear the killer Wilfred James’s words of confession — “I believe there is another man inside of every man, a stranger, a Conniving Man” — in any way he or she likes. In the movie, the actor Thomas Jane, as Wilfred, uses a cracker-barrel intonation that leads us to believe that at any moment he may punctuate his narration with the old faux-homey TV ad for baked goods: “Pepperidge Farm remembers.”
Mr. Jane’s performance is that of an actor portraying a type rather than a character, and it contrasts starkly with Molly Parker’s work. Alas, Ms. Parker plays the wife, so she’s not around all that long. (She comes back, but is not required to do much more than look rat-bitten, which the makeup department handles well.) Throughout the picture I kept thinking, this will surely get better as the scary scenes come around. Not only did it not get better, the scary scenes did not come around.
I’m hoping things look up in 2018. Eighty movies is a lot, and if too many are like these, I may lose my faith in cinema on any screen.