Sunday, January 3, 2010

Point Thriller: The Babysitter (R.L. Stine)



Jenny is about to start a new job babysitting for the Hagen family. Apparently their little boy was trying to jump in the fountain at the mall, she saved him and they offered her a job. Because they live so far out in the boondocks, they’re willing to pay her $5 an hour. Trust me, in 1989 that was serious bank. I was lucky to make $3-4 an hour babysitting in 92.

She feels all uncomfortable the first night because their house is in the middle of nowhere (not really) and needs a lot of work, so it looks like something from a horror movie. Mr. Hagen is super paranoid and keeps running over the rules until his wife forces him out the door. The little boy Donny is nice enough, though he seems too hyper.

After he goes to bed, she wanders through the house and flips out when someone grabs her legs. Turns out that it’s only their cat. Then she reads all about how someone keeps attacking babysitters and hears footsteps in the house. Luckily it’s only Donny wanting something to drink. Somehow the fact that he tells her he wants milk, not apple juice because he brushed his teeth and it will feel weird, has stuck in my head for years.

Then she hears a noise outside and someone knocking on the door. Turns out it’s their neighbor Willers and he thought he heard a prowler. She tells her best friend Laura all about it at a pizza place, until they’re interrupted by Chuck, a relatively new boy at their school. Laura runs off, they flirt and Chuck asks to visit her at work. She gets all pissed off at him when he keeps pushing the issue and runs off.

The next time she sits, Mrs. Hagen asks her not to worry her husband with the “little things” because he’s had a rough time at work. She gets a phone call where someone just breathes and gets freaked out. Then she finds Donny on a phone that has two lines and thinks he called her as a joke, but he swears he didn’t do it. Then she gets more creepy calls from someone who keeps telling her that “company’s coming”.

Jenny talks to her mom and tries to quit, but her mom freaks out. Apparently they’re having a hard time and they could really use the extra cash. She also tells her that Chuck called and she gave him the Hagen’s phone number so she thinks he’s been calling. Look, my mom wasn’t that protective of me when I was sixteen, but if someone was running around our neighborhood attacking sitters, I don’t think she’d let me babysit. Jenny’s mom just wants the money.

Of course she gets more phone calls and calls the police. They tell her to call a Lieutenant Ferris because it’s his case. She also sees Willers again and doesn’t like the idea of him hanging around. Chuck shows up at the house, bringing along a scary mask that Donny loves. They hang out for awhile and she asks him about the phone calls and he confesses, but swears he only called once, did the breathing and hung up. He was too nervous to talk to her.

Chuck leaves when the Hagen’s get home, but Mr. Hagen is suspicious because he saw the car out front and now it’s gone. On the way home Mr. Hagen starts to tell her about their other child, but trails off. She later finds a picture of the little girl in their house and realizes that it looks almost exactly like Donny.

Another night she’s working and Hagen doesn’t want to leave because he has a “bad” feeling. He comes home early, runs upstairs and finds Donny’s bed empty. They both freak out, until Donny jumps up from under the bed where he was hiding. Psycho kid.

Then Laura, her boyfriend Eugene and Chuck all show up on another night. She and Chuck are kissing on the couch when Mr. Hagen comes home early and catches them. Everyone else leaves and she goes to get her coat, but finds a box of clippings about the attacks on babysitters. Mrs. Hagen tells her husband not to lecture Jenny on the ride home, but seems all happy.

Mr. Hagen drives her out to the rock quarry and starts rambling about her killing a baby and his poor little girl. Jenny tries to calm him down, but he keeps dragging her to the edge. Just then Willers shows up and they have a little showdown. Hagen goes to grab her, she dodges and he falls over the edge of the quarry and dies.

Turns out that Willers is actually Lieutenant Ferris and Hagen was his number one suspect. He tells Jenny about how the man lost his mind after his daughter died while a babysitter was there. He attacked the girl so bad that she was hospitalized and he was sent to an institution. Ferris had been following the whole time and worrying about Jenny. She goes home and finds Chuck sitting with her mom. They have a long talk and the book ends with Chuck saying that she’ll be babysitting him on weekends from now on.

Hold the phone. The cops have enough money to put someone in the field 24 hours, just to watch a suspect’s house? What is this, Sweet Valley? Plus Jenny’s mom is pretty bad for making her daughter keep babysitting out in the middle of nowhere when someone’s attacking and beating up teenage girls. I still can’t believe Stine milked this story for three more books…