BABYSITTER WANTED

babysitter_wantedaBABYSITTER WANTED

2.5 Stars  2008/18/87m

“No experience necessary.”

Directors: Jonas Barnes & Michael Manasseri / Writer: Jonas Barnes / Cast: Sarah Thompson, Matt Dallas, Bruce Thomas, Kristen Dalton, Bill Moseley, Nana Visitor, Monty Bane, Jillian Schmitz.

Body Count: 5


Beginning like another re-telling of the old When a Stranger Calls myth, shy smalltown girl Angie needs money for college and takes a job babysitting at a secluded farm for the Stanton family’s equally shy son, Sam. Already concerned that maybe she’s being stalked, things get worse when the phone calls begin and somebody tries to break in…

Word of mouth set up a good prospect for Babysitter Wanted and the ambience was nicely working in spite of some cringey monologues and then came the midpoint twist many positive reviews alluded to. It’s different for sure and I was surprised to find that my guess wasn’t far from the truth. The film tiptoes along the outskirts of slasher film territory without ever committing itself; Angie is held captive, escapes, is captured again, cries, screams and eventually succeeds…

And here’s the spoilage. Click away now if you don’t want to know. Go on…go…

The kid, her sittee if you will, is the Son of Satan. The ‘intruder’ is a priest trying to kill him and, when the kid’s cowboy hat topples off, Angie spots little horns-a-growin’ through his hair. The parents tie her up and explain that Sam eats the flesh of virginal girls but now they must leave as more of the priest’s followers will be on route.

It bugged me that this ‘miracle twist’ was so hammy. The film was trundling along pleasantly and then this. Once revealed, there are a couple of murders; Bill Moseley’s cop comes along trying to help and there’s some good chase action but once the kid shows his true colours, muttering “hungry” as he approaches Angie with a knife, all we really want is for her to kill him with extreme prejudice! Of course they wimp out and things are left for a sequel.

I was also suspicious of the film’s motives here; Angie is a good Catholic girl, as shown when she prays with Mom (Nana Visitor, who played Mrs Voorhees in the Friday the 13th reboot) and in her dorm room. The boy she begins ‘seeing’ is also a nice religious lad and it wouldn’t surprise me if the film were funded by a smart-thinking Christian group trying to send a message to an otherwise unreachable audience demographic here… Ergo, there’s no nudity and little swearing. Weird, weird film. Coulda been better.

Blurbs-of-interest: Scott Spiegel (the doctor at the end) directed Intruder; Moseley was recently in the horrendously bad – and curiously also web-overrated – Home Sick.

STAY ALIVE

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STAY ALIVE

2 Stars  2006/15/83m

“You die in the game – You die for real.”

Director: William Brent Bell / Writers: William Brent Bell & Michael Peterman / Cast: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz, Sophia Bush, Milo Ventimiglia, Jimmi Simpson, Wendell Pierce, Adam Goldberg.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “I just met you, like, Goddamn yesterday so kiss my ass!”


The tagline should tell you all you need to know about this lazy effort. Dorky gamers in possession of a demo release, who were foolish enough to read aloud a prayer to start the game, discover that their fate on screen neatly corresponds to their fate in the real world. Thrown into the mix is a CGI witch-slash-serial killer woman, the subject of a conveniently local urban legend.

You can just imagine a group of studio execs around a table saying, ‘you know, The Ring made a lot of money. Let’s copy it but instead of a video tape, we’ll have a video game!’ High-fives and whooping ensue as they decide to chuck in some Final Destination-type deaths and some Elm Street thematics, completed with the requisite undead female villain. Stamp it with a PG-13 rating to pull in the likely crowd and you’re done.

Given the cast features some semi-knowns; grown-up child star Muniz and a pre-Heroes Ventimiglia, it all looks so cheap and rushed. And it takes itself so damn seriously! Check the scene where the assembly line goth chick surmises the entire plot in a deadpan spiel in an attempt to convince her friends of the danger. Manufactured tat with a cash register where the heart of its artistic form should be.

HELL NIGHT

hellnight HELL NIGHT

4 Stars  1981/18/102m

“Pray for day.”

Director: Tom DeSimone / Writer: Randy Feldman / Cast: Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van Patten, Kevin Brophy, Suki Goodwin, Jenny Neumann, Jimmy Sturtevant.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “If you weren’t screamin’…and we weren’t screamin’…then somebody’s trying to mind-fuck us.”


In the cynical we-know-everything days of 2009, a film with a premise so simplistic as Hell Night is likely to be casually dismissed as ancient crap. It’s long and slow with a low body count – why bother? Because it’s one of the best slasher films going.

The Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity and its sister sorority are initiating four new pledges on their annual ‘Hell Night’. The costume party is over, we’ve met the primary cast of just seven young scholars, and we’re off to the unloved grounds of Garth Manor, where the Garth patriarch once slaughtered his entire family, save for ‘gorked out’ Andrew, who is said to still dwell within the creepy old mansion.

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Jeff, Denise, Seth and Marti are sequestered to the venue and instructed to stay in the house until dawn, when they will be let out. Once left alone by the upperclassmen, the quartet briefly explore and then pair off; Seth and Denise engage in overlong foreplay while Jeff and Marti go heart to heart and discuss their lives, the class system and various other things.

Outside, three of the senior collegiates – May, weasely Scott, and uber-prankster Peter – return to try and scare them with a range of pre-organised tricks. Ghosts appear, death-screams echo down the halls and a real killer begins stalking and slaying all those who intrude on his property! Andrew Garth lives! A few killings in, the murders are discovered and Seth manages to climb his way to freedom in a bid to summon help while Jeff and Marti look for a missing Denise and uncover the extent of the nightmare…

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Like the gothic candles that give a creepy glow to the setting, Hell Night is a real slow-burn affair. It’s nearly half an hour before the first killing and afterwards they’re spaced out to maximum tense-effect but it’s seldom boring. In the attention-deficit days we now live in, there’s no way something so relaxedly paced would ring the box office bell, but that’s the beauty of a film like Hell Night. In spite of being helmed by a noted porno director, there’s no nudity and very restrained bloodshed.

hn7aThe appeal is in the straight-forward telling of it all. It’s got classic creaky haunted house origins, aided no end by the period costumes worn by the characters, the candelabras and cobwebs, Nosferatu-influenced creeping shadows, all engineered into a (then) modern slasher narrative. Characters are also well drawn given that the entire thing is set on one night; Linda Blair, all grown up from playing Regan MacNeil, makes for an affable heroine in Marti, a mechanically gifted student. Her three companions range from misunderstood nice guy (Jeff), to surfer dude (Seth) and comical British partygirl (Denise), while the trio of pranksters have less to do. Why the two main guys are Jeff n’ Seth is something we’ll never know I guess…

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The emphasis on atmosphere is a strong selling point here; the house is creepy and the story just offbeat enough to be unsettling. “This was supposed to be a joke,” crows Marti when she and Jeff find time to reflect on the night’s events. All things considered, definitely not a film for all to enjoy. It has that nostalgic ‘this scared me as a kid’ quality going for it, something we’re unlikely to experience again. Karen Carpenter sang ‘Tryin’ To Get That Feeling Again’, Hell Night still maintains a big part of ‘that’ feeling.

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The bad news: a PG-13 remake, almost certainly similar to the dismal Prom Night redux, is due in 2010. Don’t expect any nostalgia there.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Blair made a return to the slasher film in 1988’s hilarious Grotesque;  Barton played Doug in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter; Jenny Neumann had already played the lead in Aussie theatre stalker Stage Fright. Several of the producers worked on other slasher flicks, including Halloween, and Chuck Russell directed A Nightmare On Elm Street 3.

The Joke’s on You

aprilfoolsday

APRIL FOOL’S DAY

1 Stars  2008/15/88m

“She has a killer party planned.”

Directors: The Butcher Brothers / Writers: Michael Wigart & The Butcher Brothers / Cast: Taylor Cole, Josh Henderson, Scout Taylor-Compton, Joe Egender, Joseph McKelheer, Samuel Child, Jennifer Siebel, Sabrina Aldridge.

Bodycount: …is any of it real?

Dire-logue: “This is supposed to celebrate someone coming out, not going out!”


Snotty rich sibs Desiree and Blaine hold a coming-out party for Scout Taylor-Compton’s high-society debutante, which is ruined when an April Fool’s prank on Desiree’s rival, Milan (!), ends up with the poor girl toppling over a mezzanine to land atop a grand piano and totally dying.

One year later to the day, those involved in the joke are summoned to Milan’s graveside where they are confronted with a letter, supposedly from the dead girl, stating that they will each die throughout the course of the day unless the person responsible turns themselves in to the police.

Is it/isn’t it a joke dialogue ensues and, true to her word, the group begin perishing in bizarre ‘accidents’ until numbers are whittled down to the final three and a couple of twists are glued to the end for those dim-bulbed enough to misunderstand the concept of prank-themed slasher films.

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By far the worst of the remake scrum, AFD ’08, ignores everything that made the ’86 original so much fun and turns it into a cynical after-school drama production with the most unlikeable characters you could imagine. Ponsing around in their shiny cars and designer clothes, we want these bastards dead! It’s got far more in common with Cruel Intentions than any horror movie, has no heart or soul, no sense of fun, no blood, no suspense – it’s simply devoid of merit. And the twist is simply groanworthy. I wanted to attack my TV screen with a hammer at the end of this.

Scout Taylor-Compton is surely becoming some sort of slasher-remake jinx after trying to fill Jamie Lee Curtis’ shoes for Rob Zombie’s depressing Halloween redux. An obnoxious, insulting film if ever there was. The joke is most certainly on the audience.

STAGKNIGHT

stagknightSTAGKNIGHT

3 Stars  2007/79m

“Sex, drugs, guns and one killer knight out…”

Director: Simon Cathcart / Writers: Simon Cathcart & Rob Mercer / Cast: Simeon Willis, James Hillier, Jocelyn Osorio, Sandra Dickinson, Martin Bayfied, Simon Cathcart, Brian McNeill, Joe Montana, J.C. Mac, Jason Hyde, Harry Athwal, Tony Tang, Danielle Mason, Santos De Castro.

Body Count: 11

First-rate Fatality: Sword through the mouth and out the arse! Ouch.


Recently, I had the disctinct displeasure of watching a Brit-slasher flick called Small Town Folk. It was a vignette stretched to feature length that required a stretch of patience to get through it. So, when sitting down to watch StagKnight last night I had similar reservations.

Blissfully, StagKnight looks like Halloween by comparison. Evidently shot with next to no budget in place, financial constraints are compensated for by a quirky sense of humour and a central premise so very simple it’s a wonder nobody has ever tackled  it in horror before now.

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Dorky historian Brian’s stag night with the Weekend Warriors’ paintball team is taking place around the back of nowhere at an inn owned by sub-wiccan Fay (Dickinson) and her Egor-like son William (ex-rugby giant Bayfield). She tricks the group into performing a chant that resurrects a Templar Knight and subsequently opens up access to a cauldron of eternal life-serum or some such twaddle. It’s never made clear really. But we’re strictly here for the slashing…

After they’re bored of the strippers and pranks, the guys opt for a nightgame of Paintball and split into two teams to enter the woods where, of course, our Templar Knight is waiting with his big sword. Meanwhile, reluctant stripper Blossom is cast early into the nightmare when she and the crazy driver crash into the Knight’s tomb and she escapes wearing an important artefact that will assist in Fay’s plan to get to the cauldron.

The Knight soon begins taking out the players in a variety of ways until the inevitable showdown in the tomb. Victims are impaled, skewered, have their faces punched to oblivion and choked on paintballs. It’s impressive but the dim lighting and CG-mist makes things difficult to see from time to time and we never get a really good look at the Knight himself.

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Bayfield and Dickinson are good, as is Willis as Brian and James Hillier as the sleazy exec-type. The crowded background cast have less to do with their one-note roles, including Korean guy, American guy, comedy Indian guy and camp gay bloke, but serve their purpose as Knight-fodder well enough for it not to matter. With a larger wad of cash at its disposal, StagKnight could have been on a par with Shaun of the Dead and is currently in limbo awaiting a DVD release. At least it never tempts you to hit fast forward which is more than can be said for a lot of contemporary horror comedies. A fun little timewaster and maybe a predecessor to HenKnight with a gun-toting bride?

Blurb-of-interest: James Hillier was Spencer in Long Time Dead.

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