Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: John Rocco, Abiel Bruhn
Writer: John Rocco, Abiel Bruhn
Producer: Cristian Quintero, John Rocco
Stars: Elyse DuFour, Jack Champion, Jermaine Rivers, Amber Neukum, J. Benedict Larmore, Ben Barlow, Joe Walz, Deanna Meske, Bailey Campbell
Two precocious boys and a thief posing as their babysitter trigger a chain of events that conjures three legendary witches.
Everyone in “The Night Sitter” has some sort of scheme up a sleeve. Wealthy widower Ted Hooper wishes he were a popular paranormal researcher. Even though he’s never seen a supernatural event himself, occult antiquities stock his spacious home, and his sizzle reel desperately tries to sell Ted as the hot new host of a ghost hunting reality show.
Networks aren’t interested in Ted’s cartoony claptrap. But “Amber” is interested in those aforementioned antiquities. Posing as a babysitter, Amber infiltrates the slightly macabre mansion planning to pilfer it with her literal partner in crime Rod, Rod’s dim bulb girlfriend Lindsey, and Martin, the sad sack suitor who can’t take Amber’s direct hint that she isn’t interested in his awkward advances.
Kevin and Ronnie are Amber’s two wards for the evening. Preoccupied by nightmares involving evil entities determined to entrance him, Ted’s strange son Kevin draws odd imagery that’s curiously concerned with witchcraft. Kevin isn’t friends with precocious provoker Ronnie, but the other boy is the son of Ted’s date. Like it or not, Ronnie has to stay overnight.
After he loses interest in annoying Amber, Ronnie gains interest in getting into Ted’s locked office. Once inside, Kevin and Ronnie uncover a dusty tome dedicated to “The Three Mothers.” A little bit of accidental bloodletting later, the boys inadvertently conjure three glowing orbs. You can guess where things go next. The cast of quirky characters assembled inside the house is about to experience a night of splattery slaughter they won’t soon forget, if they can even keep their heads.
Several sources classify “The Night Sitter” as a comedy, although that label ought to come with an advisory asterisk. Characters such as eccentric neighbor Vincent and antics like a sudden bout of cocaine-fueled sex obviously aim for comic relief. But the subdued silly streak stems mainly from the movie’s self-aware air more than ha-ha hijinks. “The Night Sitter” understands its crowdfunded chemistry prevents it from being taken with total seriousness, so it says, “yeah we know” by sniffing a whiff of an “Evil Dead” attitude. Errantly anticipate straight-no-chaser joking around and you’ll find the film deliberately doesn’t grab for the jugular.
This poses a predicament for the production because it doesn’t pack the knockout hook necessary to fire on all cylinders for horror and humor. Writing and acting, particularly from Elyse DuFour as the sassily smirking lead, are both above average. Lighting and cinematography are even better. Spike this plain-ish punch with spicier oomph in terms of staging and scenery and there’d be something spunkier to see here.
Clearly, devoted horror fans made “The Night Sitter” to pay tribute to their idols, and hopefully attract like-minded appreciators in the process. In addition to loose licks of Sam Raimi via a deranged deadite ranting and raving, John Carpenter echoes on the synthesized score while Dario Argento drips all over the color palette.
Feel free to sigh since horror has as many modern Carpenter and Argento riffs as McDonald’s has French fries. No one would blame you. Little about “The Night Sitter’s” setup screams for these throwback tones. Still, I’ll award passing grades since “The Night Sitter’s” creepy keyboards and colored gels don’t distract as wholly out of place inclusions. Unearned retro flair taking precedence over plotting has felled many a DTV fright flick. Rob Himebaugh’s music and Scotty G. Field’s camera, ably assisted by Matthew Schwartz’s sound design and art design/direction from Megan Case, Madeline Grayson, and Morgan Lugo, at least enrich “The Night Sitter” with intriguing sights and sounds.
One of the reasons I watched “The Night Sitter” is because it is set during Christmas. Like a mogwai after midnight, I have a seemingly insatiable appetite for holiday horror. However, the red/green lighting scheme melts into the “Suspiria” aesthetic so quickly, you’ll regularly forget when the movie is meant to take place. As with any ideas about out-loud laughs, it’s best to cool expectations for a midline movie. The Xmas setting is incidental, partially motivating brightly colored visuals without truly tying into the holiday.
I may have used this metaphor before, but what the hell. “The Night Sitter” hits safe standards as a bowl of Goldilocks’ porridge. It’s not too hot. Plenty of predictable beats play things too tamely before limping into end credits with an underwhelming finale. It’s not too cold either. Written and directed by John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn, clean editing, well designed details, and evident passion earmark the crew as newcomers who care about crafting quality indie horror on a light wallet. More memorable entertainment options may exist in the same space, but there are far more poorly produced alternatives out there too. “The Night Sitter” is essentially a “just right” movie that’s ideal for a quick one-and-done watch provided easygoing moods are tuned to its mild vibe.
Review Score: 60