‘Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting’ Director on Going from ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ to Family-Friendly Horror

     October 18, 2020

As much as I love my Halloween season movies extremely dark and creepy, every single time I put on a childhood favorite, like Hocus Pocus, I catch myself itching for more family-friendly to share with my little cousins, and eventually with my one-year-old niece as well. That being said, I got mighty excited when A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting dropped on Netflix.

Rachel Talalay directed from a script written by Joe Ballarini based on his book of the same name. The movie stars Tamara Smart as Kelly Ferguson, a babysitter who must challenge the Boogeyman when the young boy she’s watching is kidnapped. While the odds do seem stacked against Kelly at first, the discovery of a secret society of babysitters with supernatural knowhow could be just the help she needs to face The Grand Guignol (Tom Felton).

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Image via Netflix

With the movie now available to watch on Netflix, I got the chance to chat with Ballarini and Talalay about their experience bringing the story to screen. Talalay actually made her feature directorial debut on Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and highlighted how that experience came in handy here, but also the adjustments Babysitter’s Guide called for:

“I sort of have a great deal of love for horror and for special effects. I sometimes say my autobiography should be called Everything I Know I Learned from Nightmare on Elm Street, mostly because it taught me how to do everything on a budget, all kinds of effects and it taught me a lot about audiences. And so the difference here is, how do you take those skills and put them towards a family film? You know, the $64 million question, how scary is it? How scary can we be? How scary should we be? How do we make it family/scary appropriate [and] funny? And Joe found the balance in the book, but finding the balance on screen is very different.”

While Ballarini did note that the finished feature feels very much like his source material, there were a few things that needed changing, like the cat lady:

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Image via Netflix

“The cat lady in the book is a really sort of gnarly, ghosty, scary, creepy, spooky house and it’s a cat lady who loved her cats so much, she fed herself to them … I think maybe I pushed a little too far with the cat ladies of the world. And Rachel really had a unique vision for Peggy Drood and really took Peggy Drood in a much more imaginative, almost really modern take on what that cat lady would be, so the cat lady’s actually a really cool, seductive almost, very stylish character that turns out to be like, ‘Wow, that’s a totally different vibe from the book,’ but it really works within the context of the film.”

Check out our full conversation with Talalay and Ballarini at the top of this article to hear more about their experience working with Felton on The Grand Guignol character, how they brought the Toadies to life, the props they took home from set, and loads more!

Rachel Talalay and Joe Ballarini: 

  • 00:53 – Ballarini is a hugely accomplished writer, having had a number of scripts picked up over the years, but without reaching the green light for production. How did those experiences impact his approach to getting Babysitter’s Guide off the ground?
  • 02:30 – How does Talalay’s experience working on the Nightmare Elm Street franchise influence her work today?

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    Image via Netflix

  • 03:50 – Why does Ballarini gravitate towards telling kid-friendly genre stories?
  • 05:51 – Talalay used to be afraid of horror movies as a kid; what changed that?
  • 07:15 – Ballarini discusses his experience adapting his own source material; one of the biggest differences between the book and the film.
  • 09:21 – Talalay and Ballarini discuss working with Indya Moore.
  • 10:33 – How the Grand Guignol’s lair changed from book to film.
  • 11:39 – What they kept from set; there’s a Nightmare on Elm Street Easter egg in the film.
  • 13:40 – How Linden Porco helped bring the Toadies to life.
  • 14:53 – Talalay and Ballarini highlight the Babysitter’s Guide ensemble.
  • 16:00 – Watching Tom Felton bring the Grand Guignol to life.
  • 18:22 – Would a sequel film follow the events of the next book?
  • 19:13 – Other eerie legends that deserve more screen time.
  • 20:22 – How are Talalay and Ballarini celebrating Halloween this year?

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