The Night Sitter


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Night Sitter
"Good chemistry between Dufour and Champion means that their bond feels real and keeps us caring for them even during the silliest parts of the story."

Losing your mum when you're just a kid is bad enough. Having to deal with your dad then starting to date again is uncomfortable. Being told that you has to be looked after by a babysitter at the age of 13 is truly miserable. Kevin (Jack Champion) doesn't even seem to have the advantage of finding babysitter Amber (Elyse Dufour) attractive, though many viewers will doubtless do so and his father's date's son Ronnie (Bailey Campbell), who is staying at his house overnight, certainly does. Ronnie is s the kind of smug, overconfident kid who goes looking for trouble as soon as he gets the chance - and there are plenty of chances here. Kevin has seen trouble enough - all he wants is to survive.

For Kevin, the trouble comes in dreams. Every night, when he closes his eyes, he sees witches who want to kill him. Maybe it's because of his father's obsession with hosting a cheesy ghost hunting programme. Maybe it's something else. Just what is it that his father keeps locked away behind the study door? Sick of visits to a psychiatrist which are getting him nowhere, he just wants somebody to listen and take him seriously. Could it be worth trying Amber, even if she is a babysitter - and even if she is planning to rob the house?

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The Eighties colour palette and visual effects are an early indicator of the direction this film is going to take. Once the children have been put to bed, Amber's friends arrive, providing fresh teenage fodder for whatever is lurking in the house. Throw in a nerdy neighbour who takes about ten minutes to develop a crush despite her obvious lack of sexual interest in him, and the stage is set for a bloody showdown. As it becomes apparent that the danger is very real, Amber finds unexpected depths within herself and grows increasingly determined to protect Kevin no matter what.

Directors Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco take a playful approach to the action. There are plenty of thrills and spills and, yes, quite a lot of homage, though most of its is gracefully handled and doesn't detract from the film's own story. The one place where they overstep themselves is in calling their antagonists the three mothers, conjuring up images of a class of horror they cannot come close to and threatening to leave viewers disappointed with what is otherwise an enjoyable piece of genre fluff. Where it remains aware of its limitations, the film is highly effective. Good chemistry between Dufour and Champion means that their bond feels real and keeps us caring for them even during the silliest parts of the story.

With good pacing and a nice balance of humour and horror, the film has only one major narrative problem, which is that it never really develops the witches as characters - beyond understanding them as malicious and focused on Kevin, we never really have a clear idea of their motives, nor do we get the sense of awe and added creepiness that might come from something genuinely unknowable. Instead they fill a gap where any generic monster might have fitted. Partly thanks to this, a sinister subplot around Kevin's dad falls short of its potential. One might also contend that the additional teenagers are underdeveloped, but they serve their purpose well enough and their treatment is wholly in accordance with genre expectations.

Overall, The Night Sitter is an unpretentious and enjoyable little film with sympathetic leads and plenty of personality. It will particularly appeal to fans of Eighties horror and one almost expects to see the wavy lines of old VHS across the middle of the screen in a scene where Amber flashes her bra, but its exuberance and solid emotional core will win over plenty of younger viewers too.

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2019
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The Night Sitter packshot
A con artist poses as a babysitter to steal from a wealthy occult enthusiast, arriving just as his son accidentally summons a trio of witches.

Director: Abiel Bruhn, John Rocco

Writer: Abiel Bruhn, John Rocco

Starring: Amber Neukum, Elyse Dufour, Jack Champion, Jermaine Rivers

Year: 2018

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2018

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