The Caretaker

Year:  2008
Director:  Bryce Olson
Cast:  Andrew St. John, Diego J. Torres, Kira Verrastro, Jennifer Freeman, Jennifer Tilly

Instead of attending their Homecoming Dance as originally planned, two high school jocks decide to scare their dates with a Halloween prank by taking them to an abandoned house in the middle of a grapefruit orchard miles from town.  According to legend, the owner of the house murdered his wife and her family and still roams the orchard in search of victims.  Unfortunately for the teens, the story is anything but a legend.

The premise of The Caretaker is ideal slasher film fodder, as there is an urban legend, a group of naive teens, an isolated location, and a mad killer armed with a unique weapon of choice.  Moreover, the film is competently directed with some impressive set pieces and a cast that is more than capable of carrying the film.  However, it becomes quickly apparent that something is lacking.  For much of the exposition, the film plays out like an after school special, complete with melodramatic dialogue and saccharine characterization.  The first few murders are void of any blood or gore and are done entirely off screen, which is disappointing considering the murderer's awesome makeshift weapon capable of inflicting some major damage.  In fact, it is hard to tell exactly why the film even received an R rating until about a half hour in when the resident blond bimbo character takes her top off to tease her boyfriend.  Considering the tone of the rest of the film, this scene seems completely out of place.  This leads to the film's main problem: it does absolutely nothing new.  It follows every single slasher cliche down the the tee, but completely lacks the suspense and tone needed to be effective. The pacing is troublesome, as it takes more than half the film's running time before any real action begins. When the urban legend is retold, it is such a bland story that raises more questions than anything (why is the killer referred to as "The Caretaker" when he owned the house?) and does not adequately explain why the killer is now attacking helpless teens.  And when the teens are attacked, there is zero build up to any of their deaths.  No attempt at creating tension is attempted; it's almost as if the filmmaker realized they were running out of time and had to get the killing. It is that rushed, without a drop of blood or gore to be found.  With as much time that is spent developing the characters, it would have been nice to see a good chase scene or have them at least put up a good fight.  The end of the film will have you rolling your eyes at its absurdity.   Not even the presence of Jennifer Tilly and Judd Nelson, who are honestly both completely wasted, can liven this bland film.

Overall, The Caretaker is as safe and tedious as a horror film can get.  While it looks good and is competently acted, it ultimately squanders a good premise and lacks the suspense, gore, and entertainment value that horror fans should be able to reasonably expect.

Fright Meter Grade:

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