Saturday, October 22, 2016

In short: Babysitter Wanted (2008)

Young catholic Angie Albright (Sarah Thompson) has just left her home town and her mother (Nana Visitor in a tiny cameo) to study art history in a decidedly unglamorous city quite some ways away. There’s obviously a degree of culture shock involved for Angie. However, culture shock just might not be the only reason for the fact that ever since she’s left home she feels as if somebody is watching her, stalking her – at least, the audience sees the shadow of a large man (Monty Bane) lurking around her, and we’re not watching Haute Tension.

Because she’s poor, Angie has to take up work basically the moment she arrives in town. A babysitting gig somewhere in the rural outskirts is just the ticket. And whatever could go wrong when babysitting Sam (Kai Caster), the little son of Violet (Kristen Dalton) and Jim Stanton (Bruce Thomas)? Well, for one, someone might just decide to upgrade from stalking to something more dangerous. But there are also other, more unexpected directions from where death might strike at our heroine.

Jonas Barnes’s and Michael Manasseri’s Babysitter Wanted is a rather ideal Halloween kind of horror movie, with a plot that seems inspired by urban legends and creepypasta – or in the very least shows the same spirit. So this isn’t the deep and thoughtful kind of horror but the sort of thing that mostly wants to create a fun thrill ride of a time for its audience. It does so exceedingly well, too, which is of course the most important point when taking this approach to horror. You don’t want to end up with a film that wants to be fun but doesn’t deliver – unlike with films that aim for depth, there’s no “interesting” for a thrill ride that doesn’t work.

Not being a deep film doesn’t mean it’s a stupid one, though – the directing duo has put quite a bit of love and care into the look and feel of things. There’s a late 70s/early 80s (that is, before neon colours) look to the film, with the appropriate muted yet present colours (unlike the more typical 2008 look of colours so muted a film is nearly colourless) that to my eyes tend to give a film a gritty and real feel. The editing is as tight as it should be in a film effectively using many a traditional trick of suspense and thriller cinema, and the directors build tension quickly and well.

I also found myself very much enjoying the film’s two-third twist. It’s not exactly surprising (except for Angie who doesn’t know she’s in a horror film) but the film handles it and the following scenes with such a disarming sense of sardonic and macabre humour, the twist becomes fun instead of trite. The twist also inspires Bruce Thomas to a performance that finds the sweet spot between the funny and the creepy.

All of this turns what could be an exercise in taking an audience to places it has been before a dozen times and bore it to desperation into a fun, fast, and clever low budget horror film.

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