[Arrow Video Frightfest 2018] Review: THE NIGHT SITTER Sees Beleaguered Babysitter Take on Witches in an Engaging Horror Comedy
Enough horror comedies and flat-out horror movies about babysitters in peril have been made in recent years to officially declare the trend a subgenre. The writing/directing team of Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco have helmed the latest entry in this category, The Night Sitter, and the film takes its place alongside such entries as Better Watch Out and House of the Devil as one of the best.
Elyse Dufour gives an effervescent, winning turn as Amber, a young woman hired to watch young teen Kevin (Jack Champion), son of would-be paranormal television show host Ted Hooper (Joe Walz). Hooper has a date with Charlotte (Deanna Meske), who brings her son Ronnie (Bailey Campbell) over for some sitting, as well. Hooper lets Amber and the boys know repeatedly that they are not to go into his private, locked office for any reason.
Naturally, this mysterious, off-limits room becomes a target of curiosity for the trio. Exploring the unknown and forbidden is reason enough for the the boys, but Amber, it is revealed early enough in the film to discuss here without spoiling things, took the babysitting gig to rob the house, and this room may hold certain worthwhile secrets for her.
Things get more complicated and deadlier for the trio — and increasingly funnier for viewers — when Amber’s wannabe boyfriend Martin (J. Benedict Larmore), her robbery accomplices Rod (Jermaine Rivers) and Lindsey (Amber Neukum), and Hooper’s garage-dwelling neighbor and aficionado of the dark arts Vincent (Ben Barlow) show up while the boys unwittingly unleash a trio of legendary witches in the house.
As seasoned horror-comedy film fans know, getting the balance of guffaws and gore right is no easy feat. Bruhn and Rocco handle the task masterfully. The pacing is super, establishing characters, relationships, and motives quickly and early, while building anticipation for later events. The duo maintains suspense and humor throughout.
Though set in the present day, The Night Sitter has a definite retro vibe about it, though not so much as to feel distracting. The first noticeable retro element is Rob Himebaugh’s synthesizer score, which recalls the work of John Carpenter and others, instantly settling viewers in for a fun mood. The next element is is the giallo-style lighting, with its vivid primary colors. To the film’s credit, it never tries to ape a certain style, with the directors choosing instead to blend homage nods into the overall mix, rather than making them the focal point of the movie.
The cast is terrific throughout, bringing their fun, well-imagined characters to colorful life. Dufour is outstanding, investing her straight-shooting, no-nonsense Amber with a bubbly, cheeky charm. Amber is the heart of The Night Sitter, and Dufour proves herself as a talent to keep an eye on. Champion does a fine job as the wide-eyed, withdrawn Kevin, who has been in a dark place since the rather recent death of his mother, but who is drawn to Amber. Campbell has a fun time chewing the scenery as the bratty, crude Ronnie.
Viewers hoping for grue and gore will find that they get more than a fair share of it here once the trio of witches start wreaking havoc. The effects are impressively realized.
The Night Sitter will bring back warm memories of growing up watching such young-audience fear fare as Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, with healthy dollops of stronger supernatural films such as The Evil Dead and Drag Me to Hell. It’s a winning effort that should find a place on many year-end top 10 horror movie lists. It will certainly do so on mine.
The Night Sitter screened at Arrow Video Frightfest, which took place in London from August 23-27.