Babysitter WantedReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/16/08 23:47:16
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: There are many different ways to make a horror movie, and "Babysitter Wanted" tries every one of them at one point or another. That's not uncommon, of course, and it's usually a bad thing. This is the rare case of the filmmakers knowing how to fit all those pieces together into something that works as a whole.It starts with Angie (Sarah Thompson), an upbeat 18-year-old whose devoutly Catholic mother is, like all mothers, worried about how far away her daughter is traveling to go to college. Once she gets there, Angie does the usual things - meets a far less squeaky-clean roommate (Jillian Schmitz), starts classes, and crosses paths with Rick (Matt Dallas), a nice-seeming by who offers to fix her car after dropping her off at her babysitting job. There, Jim Stanton (Bruce Thomas) and his wife Violet (Kristen Dalton) introduce her to her to Sammy (Kai Caster) before driving off. Of course, this leaves her unable to just drive away with Sam when it looks like there's someone scary outside.
We, of course, have some idea of what Angie is facing, as the movie has a prologue. Writer/co-director Jonas Barnes has a couple tricks up his sleeve, though, and he and Michael Manasseri (the other co-director) do a fine job of changing directions midway through: Even if you guess what's coming ahead of time - which isn't terribly hard, quite honestly - you'll probably still at least smile at the way they change the game. It's a great "what the... wait, that means... oh, crap!" moment that puts the audience right in Angie's place even while it winks at them, saying that the really fun and crazy stuff is just getting started.
Part of the reason everything is so much fun is that we are right there with Angie. Angie is the very archetype of a certain type of horror heroine, sweet and virginal and unlikely to believe ill of anybody. Sarah Thompson is good at that, playing it broad and genuine, but also a little unsure of herself in her new environment: She's not quite sure how to react to Rick, and her scenes in the lecture halls give a hint that she's maybe not enjoying her art history courses quite so much as she thought she would. She'd be an easy character to play stupid, but the movie's not going that direction - there's a fun scene early in the film involving Angie and her roommate's bong that looks like it's going to be having a laugh at Angie's expense, but instead makes the audience laugh at something else. Well played, movie, well played.
Babysitter Wanted is quite funny throughout, occasionally flirting with self-parody. Fortunately, the filmmakers are good at recognizing the line between where a joke makes what's going on a little more shocking and where it undermines the suspense, and then generally staying on the right side of the line. The film moves between black comedy and well-staged action very smoothly, with a couple of nasty detours into grisly torture on the way - although not as much as you might think; there's actually only a few minutes of gore, but it's definitely memorable.
It would be saying too much to say which other members of the cast stood out for what reasons. Just about everybody gets a chance to turn on a good line or two, with Matt Dallas and Bruce Thomas especially standing out. Horror fans might get a kick out of seeing Bill Moseley as the local sheriff. The whole cast is quite good, actually - there's not a clunker of a performance in the lot, which helps everything zip right along, even in the sillier moments.The film has plenty of those, to be sure. But it's also got plenty of thrilling ones and a few disgusting ones, too, and it's pretty darn good about moving from one to the other.
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