So Bad, It’s Not Even Funny: The Caretaker (2008)
*CAUTION! Here be spoilers…and free vitamin C*
When a film advertises itself as teen slasher film, it’s expected to deliver some standard pre-requisites. Kids that fit into the usual bracketing system, red herrings strewn about with wild abandon, horrific deaths seen coming a mile off, you know the type of thing. Ends with what’s supposed to be a killer twist, or a Scooby Doo unveiling…
Ah, come on, who hasn’t seen or heard of the deconstruction done in Wes Craven’s Scream? I don’t need to go any further. If Scream was an exercise in how the slasher movie works, then The Caretaker is possibly the best example of how not to do it.
Prom night. Halloween. Ghost stories. Old town legend. Abandoned and allegedly haunted house. Teenagers in peril. Jennifer Tilly with her tits half out. This could be okay. Spooky grapefruit orchard…hang on, spooky grapefruit orchard? Yes. In which sixteen years ago, a jealous maniac kept his wife prisoner, killing her whole family, leaving her to die once their child was born.
Perfect setting for a night of ghostly spooking out and sex for a bunch of teenagers, including the new girl, brought back to daddy’s home town on account of her ailing grandfather. What’s that you say, her mother died in childbirth?
Within the first five seconds of Judd Nelson appearing as the new girl’s worried father, I thought “biggest name equals killer.” I know I’m using the term big name loosely here. Come on, Caretaker, I dare you. Don’t make Nelson kill his daughter’s buddies in the name of love and a misplaced sense of protection. Please, lead me to think that, but at least prove me wrong.
I watched The Caretaker with the best intentions of it maybe turning into one of those classic late night laugh fests, and yes, because the name “Judd Nelson” flashed up. That name makes me think of football fields, black leather fingerless gloves, bells on biker boots, massive coats, bandanas round the ankle, one single earring and rebellion. In short, Bender from The Breakfast Club. Fist the sky, Nelson, fist the sky!
Look up Ringwald’s skirt while yer at it.
Possibly they were trying out some kind of new “post-horror” malarkey, where the most predictable course of action is taken as a backlash against the need for increasingly inventive plot twists. That could also explain the lack of grisly slayings, having one standard and low quality method of death for all being a stand against the current trend of trying to top every death that’s gone before. Not that the killer didn’t have a trademark, of course he did – he rolled a grapefruit at his victims then stabbed them with a fruit picker. Half the stabbings don’t look fatal, though it’s hardly as if you give a damn when these dickheads are put out of their misery.
I’m of the thinking that stereotyping in these types of movies works, as you form superficial connections with the characters. You may not care about them a great deal, but you instantly know who they are, and their place in the scheme of things. Random, interchangeable teens don’t really pull it off, especially if nothing happens for the first three quarters of the movie and the insipid bastards bore you shitless.
Using actors known for their appearances in previous successful franchises can work to great advantage (allow me if you will, as I’m bloody going to anyway, cite Urban Legend’s use of Robert Englund and Brad Dourif) because these guys act to throw you off the scent of the real killer. Doesn’t really happen though when you use the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers without the makeup. Not instantly recognisable is he? No quick-fix addition to the horror credentials. Instead of laughing knowingly, it’s more “he looks a bit familiar, have I seen him before? Nah, it’s just because he looks like a low budget version of Leo from Twin Peaks.” Maybe not everyone’s reaction, but definitely mine.
At least they used Jennifer Tilly to good effect. As an oversexed and rampant-as-all-hell schoolteacher, she’s good. Even if her character does give the most blatant “subtle” nod towards the supposed shock ending I think I’ve ever seen. Yes Killer, she knows your dad. He’s not well.
Oh hell, they’re definitely not gonna prove me wrong now are they?
There really is no point in writing any further, and besides, I’ve got fruit to pick.