The 2008 indie horror flick Babysitter Wanted finally hits DVD this month after a rather long wait, and although much of the marketing and early word had me skeptical at best, I popped the flick in and ... hey, this isn't bad! Oh sure it's got some of the typical "first-timer indie" problems (a few scenes that run too long, for example), but despite a slightly slow start, Babysitter Wanted picks up quite well in Act II and delivers some broad and enjoyable shocks and surprises that you may not see coming.
The story is a remarkably simple one (and one that's oddly similar to the superior House of the Devil for the first half of the film): it's about a sweet young college girl, away from home for the first time and suffering through a grungy apartment / sleazy new roommate, who (unwisely) decides to apply for a babysitting job she sees advertised on her college campus. (Our heroine is away from home and attending a community college because "it has a great art department." Someone explain community colleges to these screenwriters please.) Her charge will be a strange little boy called Sam, but Mom and Dad seem perfectly cool, and a paying gig is of primary importance, and so our lovely young lass settles in for a dull night of quiet babysitting.
Little Sam, in addition to being a creepy little bugger, gets out of bed and demands some really weird food. Our good-natured Angie is more than happy to oblige ... but when she turns around the kid is gone. And then she hears someone at the front door. And some noises upstairs. After a slightly languid beginning, Babysitter Wanted kicks in with a scrappy-yet-restrained "kitchen sink" approach to a potentially generic campfire story. The flick doles out a punch of slasher stuff, a handful of occult-style strangeness, a small dose of torture terror, and a slightly tongue-in-cheek Tales from the Crypt vibe. (Indeed, Babysitter Wanted might be even better with 15 minutes shaved off; it'd certainly be one of the better Masters of Horror episodes.) To its credit, the movie throws a lot of fun-but-familiar horror tropes at the screen, and its tough to knock a flick that's throwing so many horror sub-genres into the blender.
In other good news, leading lady Sarah Thompson is quite the find. She's vulnerable and adorable, which helps a lot, but she also displays a sweetness (early) and a toughness (later on) that helps keep the crazy flick glued together. Bruce Thomas and Kristen Dalton are also quite good as the Stantons (as in: they who need the babysitter), and the hardcore horror fans even get a solid supporting performance from genre favorite Bill Moseley, whom I enjoy much more when he's playing "normal" (as he is here) than when he's playing "feral," which he does in practically everything else. Technical grades are passable, which means you can tell the flick was made on limited funds, but it's actually performed rather well, shot with some creativity, and lit pretty creepily.
A more-than-passable 80-minute expenditure for the serious horror fans who'd love to rent everything, but don't have time for all the garbage on the horror shelves, Babysitter Wanted is hardly the most unique or original indie horror flick -- but I don't think it's really trying to be. As an intentional pastiche of a half-dozen horror themes, it's a worthwhile experiment and a surprisingly good time.