MTI // 2008 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // February 19th, 2010
It's the night of Homecoming and three teenaged boys try to scare the pants off their dates by taking them to an abandoned orchard, where a crazy caretaker kept his wife captive in their house and eventually killed her. The caretaker has not been heard from for sixteen years and it isn't long before he returns to kill again.
The Caretaker serves up a good entry in the teen slasher genre in the style of the classic '80s films, low on gore and high on predictability. We have all the usual teen slasher standards: great looking kids, a creepy house, a hokey backstory and spree of killings by an unknown murderer. We've seen this formula in countless thrillers, but for those who love the genre, this is a formula we don't mind watching over and over again as long as it somehow works.
The Caretaker works and works well. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film, in the same way I enjoy watching episodes of Tales From The Crypt. We know before pushing play what we are getting into and that we're not kicking back for a night of Fellini. Like a Crypt episode, the acting is exactly where it needs to be with good performances, but not heavy handed at all. The production value is high with its creative lighting and well done soundtrack, but the story is goofy enough that we aren't meant to take anything seriously. Humor is spread thick between killings and the characters are extremely familiar and likeable. The lead jock, Topher, is easily more obnoxious than anyone I encountered in high school and I was itching to see him taken out.
Along with the cocky teenage boys and token hot girls, we have a few truly quirky characters that really add some flavor into the mix. The limo driver (Jonathan Breck) creeps out the teens with sleazy demeanor. Early in the film, he offers the front seat to one of the girls while periodically mentioning how much he loves his own daughter. Jennifer Tilly (Monsters, Inc.) plays Miss Perry, a horny teacher whose aim is to videotape herself with a student, only to have it broadcast online. This, naturally, will propel her to celebrity status, even though she knows jail time will be involved. Judd Nelson (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) makes a brief appearance as the father of one of the girls. While The Caretaker probably won't be seen by huge numbers, I'd sit through it again before The Breakfast Club any day of the week.
In the fashion of many great horror films, the killer has a special weapon of choice. This particular killer uses a fruit picker to maim his victims, which seems logical considering the setting. (If you are unclear on what a fruit picker looks like, just imagine Freddy Krueger's metal blades on the end of a pole.) Even more fun is the cheesy introduction to every killing, a grapefruit rolls into the picture taking the future victim by surprise. With such an unrelenting weapon, one would expect more blood in the picture, but there is surprisingly very little gore in the film.
My DVD was a screener copy, so there were no extras to comment on aside from a trailer. We get treated to a nice clean transfer, but only a 2 channel Dolby soundtrack.
The Caretaker is a fun, teen slasher film that doesn't try to be something it isn't. I was expecting something awful, but was pleasantly surprised. If your Netflix queue is already filled with horror films that the general public has never heard of, then throw this one into the mix as well. It might be worth the 83 minutes of your time, but don't expect a masterpiece.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R